A group of local residents – inspired by Chelsea King’s life and dedication to health and fitness – is raising funds for the Chelsea’s Light Foundation and honoring her memory by training and completing triathlons.

Inspired by her own battle with lesions on her brain that threatened to prompt Multiple Sclerois, former 4S Ranch resident Aurora Colello formed the “Tri-n for Chelsea” team, which raised $20,000 last year and expects to improve on that number in 2011.

“The mission for “Tri-n for Chelsea” is to spread awareness about the non-profit Foundation,” Colello said.  “We are also honoring Chelsea in the triathlon that she always wanted to do, but was never able to.”

Chelsea King, 17, an honor student at Poway High School, was abducted in late February 2010 while jogging near Lake Hodges.  John Gardner III later pleaded guilty to murdering her and an Escondido teenager and is serving a life sentence.

The first “Tri-n for Chelsea” team began training in June 2010 for the Women’s Series in November 2010.  It consisted of 43 women from all over Southern California, (as far as Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Long Beach) – but was mostly individuals from San Diego North County.  “We had women who were on the search and rescue team and searched for Chelsea every day, women who went to school with Chelsea and Chelsea’s two  adult cousins,” said Colello.  “With team II we are now a co-ed team. We currently have 166  members, 124 women and 42 men.”

Colello’s personal saga began in November 2008 when she lost vision in her right eye, which eventually led to the brain lesion diagnosis and the Multiple Sclerosis threat.  “I was devasted and scared, but being a woman of strong faith in God, I prayed a lot,” she said.  “I also found out about a natural holistic center in Encinitas (Center for Advance Medicine), which prompted in positive results involving my vision.”

Further looking at alternatives and avoiding traditional MS medications, Colello began changing her entire lifestyle, including diet and a big increase in exercise by signing up for her first triathlon.  “I completed a few triathlons that year,” she said.  “A year later, an MRI confirmed that my brain lesions were completely gone.”

The experience led to Colello gathering a small group together to encourage them to get into the sport of triathlon and step out of their comfort zones of health.  “After a local gathering in 4S Ranch with a Foundation representative, ‘Tri-n for Chelsea’ was launched,” she said.  “As a mom of four children, I was deeply affected by what happened to Chelsea and always wanted to do something to help.”
Though team registration for the next race is closed, Colello said interested individuals can sign up for future races on the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/trinforchelsea.  Next up for the team is the inaugural Chelsea’s Run 5K at Balboa Park, followed by the May 1 Spring Sprint at Mission Bay.

Colello – who now lives in Rancho Bernardo, but whose children still attend schools in 4S Ranch – plans to continue her grassroots efforts to bring attention and funding to the Foundation.  “We find value in creating a safe, fun and positive environment for all of our teammates in not only challenging ourselves, but in knowing they are benefitting a cause greater than themselves.”