Last week, Virtua Health and the youth organization KidzTri3 jointly announced a first-of-its-kind endeavor, to take place this summer in South Jersey: a triathlon designed for children with disabilities.

Photo courtesy Virtua Health

The two have been in a partnership for several years, after Pennsylvania resident Kimberle Levin came up with the idea for KidzTri3 in 2010. She noticed the kids' races that were often set up at adult triathlons, and decided to start staging competitions specifically geared toward children.

Levin funded the first race herself.

"The real thought is that all kids, regardless of their athletic ability, can participate, cross the finish line and feel like a superhero," she said.

As Levin looked for sponsors to fund future races, in addition to other revenue streams like race entry fees and camps, Virtua became one of the first major entities to attach itself to her organization. With KidzTri3 having expanded from eastern Pennsylvania to South Jersey, and into Central Jersey very soon, Virtua's participation has set a positive example.

"I hope that other organizations, seeing that, will say, 'We want to hook our wagon in, too,'" Levin said. Expanding further, into other parts of New Jersey and Pennsylvania as well as Delaware, remains a priority.

While Virtua and KidzTri3 have done joint health & wellness events for kids before, this newly-announced event is unique in that it will match young triathletes -- whether their specialty is running, biking or swimming -- with children with disabilities.

"We're taking kids with disabilities and we're actually pairing them with other kids in the community," said Rich Miller, president and CEO of Virtua, who said the ultimate goal is to grow this and future events by attracting participants not only from Gloucester County, but also other South Jersey counties like Atlantic and Cumberland.

For the children who will compete in this summer's event, some who might not normally have the financial or other means to do something like this, it's their time to shine.

"We really want them to know that they can participate in these kinds of things, and people in the community want to support them in these kinds of events," Miller said.

The triathlon will be held the weekend of Aug. 20-21 at Gloucester County Institute of Technology in Sewell. For more, visit KidzTri3.com or check out their Facebook page.

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's evening news anchor. His wife is a triathlete; he is not. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015, email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com, and listen for his live reports Monday through Thursday nights between 6:30 and 11 p.m.