CLEVELAND, OH (WOIO) - North Coast Harbor was filled with swimmers, bikers and runners Sunday for the 31st Annual Cleveland Triathlon. But they weren't just competing for personal best times. The athletes were also there to raise funds and raise up the families who are helped by United Cerebral Palsy, the official charity of the triathlon.
Hundreds of athletes took to the harbor and the streets of downtown for the tough task of completing a triathlon.
But for one participant, this is a particularly special finish.
"This is the first time he has walked here on his own. We've done shorter things with him before but, this the longest he's ever gone," said his mother, Diane Cox.
Benjamin Cox crossed the finish line on his own two feet this year.
"Every time we do something like this, Ben is doing more and more. We're super happy that he can walk a mile and a half. It's a great accomplishment for somebody who may have never walked at all," she said.
The 13-year-old from Avon has been receiving services from UCP for years and participating in the triathlon for four years.
"There are kids doing things here that their parents thought they would never do. this is just a way for them to enjoy it and showcase it," said Trish Otter, with UCP.
Sunday, Benjamin and his family walked the last mile and a half of the race.
"The first year I think he couldn't even walk, he was in a wheel chair and now to see him actually walking…and up and mobile, that's pretty impressive," said Dave Krankowski, of Team Benjamin.
The race inspired many to push themselves and encourage others to do the same.
"It just reminds you when you're feeling a little bit tired and fatigued that it's nothing compared to what Ben's gone through," said participant and Team Benjamin member, Mark Bennett.
"It's really cool when people who are running past us, also stop to cheer us on," said Benjamin's father, Matt.
Team Benjamin is one of 13 families participating in today's triathlon who are receiving services from UCP.
"Ben has learned how to do everything he does today walk, stand, play with kids, play with his sister, and our lives have been changed because of it," he said.
"Now he's walking, he's communicating. It really is a miracle what UCP has done for him," said Bennett.
"We give them hope that they never thought they'd have. And we get results that they never thought they'd have," said Otter.
This will be the ninth and last year with Team UCP as the official charity of the Cleveland Triathlon. The event has raised more than $1 million in support for the agency, helping more than 1,100 children and adults with disabilities throughout Northeast Ohio.