West Hempstead triathlete trains for people in need

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Longtime West Hempstead resident Kathryn Boehmer is taking part in this year’s Ironman Canada triathlon to support the Family & Children’s Association’s Walkabout residence in Freeport. The home, launched by the FCA in 1974, helps homeless teens and adults, ages 16 to 23, and prepares them to live independently. As the 26-year-old Boehmer prepares for the 140-mile triathlon, she said she hopes to raise $7,500.

“When I was considering doing the Ironman, I wanted to choose a charity to help . . . because it’s a crazy race, and I wanted to do it to get some good out of it,” Boehmer said.

Her father, Glen Boehmer, who has supported the FCA for years, told her about the organization, recommending that she donate to it. His daughter, who has been an occupational therapist for two years, said that part of her job is helping others develop transition and independent living skills.

“In two years out in the field, I came across a lot of residents who could’ve used a place like this,” said Boehmer, who toured the Walkabout facilities last week. “I had a lot of people that have been out of their house since they were 15 or 16, and they just kind of got misled one way or another and [have] gotten into a lot of really bad habits.” Many residents, she added, have experienced neglect and trauma.

Andrea Kerr, the FCA’s program coordinator, said that due to a lack of funding, the group has relied on donations and volunteers to keep the program running. Thanks to volunteers such as Boehmer, she said, the program has thrived.

“It shows that people out in the community care about the youth that live in Long Island, and they see that there’s a need to keep a place like this open,” said Kerr, who has been with the FCA since 2005. “I’ve seen about 200 kids come through these doors . . . Our youth have been very successful in earning jobs and going back to school, so we’ve had quite a few success stories.”

Boehmer, who moved to Bellingham, Wash., last year said that Long Island would always be her home, which is why she chose to start her fundraiser here. “I’m always going to be a New Yorker,” she said. “This will always be where my heart is.”

Since programs like this don’t exist where she lives, she said, she hopes that by sharing her experience on social media, she will spark interest among her new friends in Washington to create similar fundraisers. “At some point, I definitely would love to be involved with a creative program like this in Washington,” she said.

“I’m still trying to figure out how to be an O.T. and how to live on my own, so I’m still trying to get my feet wet as an adult.”

“We’re very grateful to Kathryn for her dedication and for helping to raise awareness about a program that has been instrumental in helping youth overcome obstacles and transform their lives,” Dr. Jeffrey Reynolds, the president and CEO of FCA, stated in a news release. “Many thanks to Kathryn and to everyone who has supported her heartwarming fundraising campaign. We wish Kathryn every success as she prepares to compete in Ironman Canada.”

Kerr said that while the Family & Children’s Assocation — a nonprofit organization that supports children and families on Long Island who are homeless, among a variety of other programs and services — is excited to receive money through Boehmer’s fundraiser, what’s more important is “getting the word out about the program and seeing people support her along the way. That’s the best part.”

As Boehmer continues to train for Ironman Canada, which will take place July 29 in Whistler, B.C., she said she never imagined that she could start a fundraiser, and that she hopes to finish the race in one piece.

“There’s a lot of new challenges and things to look forward [to],” she said, “and I believe that something good can come out of this.”

So far, Boehmer has raised about $650 out of her $7,500 fundraising goal. Her website is www.mightycause.com/story/Kathyironman.