"Ouch!" said Christina Billos, 11, when she saw a girl fall off her bike. But the girl got up quickly and continued pedaling along with lots of other kids.
"If you fall, you just get back up like she did," said Christina's mom, Kathy.
"Mom! I'm probably not going to fall," Christina said.
Christina was among 281 kids ages 5 to 14 who took part in the Make-A-Wish Triathlon last month at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in Silver Spring. The annual event is one of several in the area where kids swim, bike and run -- what's known in sports as a triathlon.
Most triathlons are held to encourage kids to exercise, have fun and compete. This one also raises money for kids with serious health problems.
"It's . . . unique because it's a kids-helping-kids event," said Jon Rosa, spokesman for the Make-A-Wish Foundation. "While it's a competition, we really put the focus on the bigger reason, which is to help make wishes come true for children fighting threatening medical conditions."
Participants raise money from sponsors (mostly family and friends). The money goes to Make-A-Wish.
Like the other contestants, Christina spent weeks preparing for the competition. Was she nervous? "Not at all." She was there for the fun -- not to win: "I am doing it to help other kids."
Christina swam 150 yards, which she said was the hardest part. Then she quickly put on shorts and shoes -- it's really difficult to put shoes on wet feet! -- and began a 2.7-mile bike ride. She didn't fall but admitted she "kind of got tired after biking a while. I got cramps." Christina, a fifth-grader at Central Elementary in Edgewater, Maryland, ended by running eight-tenths of a mile.
Younger participants did slightly shorter distances. Older kids swam 200 yards, biked 2.7 miles and ran 1.3 miles.
Some kids competed as part of a relay team. For the "Best Friends for Life" team, Pamela Gorgei biked the 2.7 miles, Lexie Pace swam and Robyn Susskind ran.
Pamela, 13, was participating for the eighth time. Her team raised $8,900. Pamela's brother was a Make-A-Wish recipient a few years ago, and that has been a motivation for her. "I can help other kids while doing what I like," she said.
-- Luz Lazo