LAKE PLACID, NY - Multiple residents from Scotch Plains, Fanwood and Westfield competed in the Ironman triathlon at Lake Placid on July 28 in support of ReserveAid.  An Ironman triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon (26.2 miles) to cap it off.  

A few of the local participants, including Thea Skanes, John Withrow, Jessica Withrow, Evan Odim and Paul Armstrong participated to benefit ReserveAid, a charity that provides financial grants to military families who have a family member who is a reservist or national guard member on full time deployment or who has recently returned from deployment.

ReserveAid athletes compete in various events, like triathlons, to raise awareness of the issues facing military families and to raise money for the charity.  While not necessarily as well -known as some organizations benefiting our military, ReserveAid’s specific focus and extremely low overhead (resulting in 97 percent of funds raised going directly to recipients) attracted the attention of these local athletes.

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“John Withrow called me one day and told me he wanted to do something crazy for ReserveAid, which was a triathlon. We moved on from sprint triathlons (typically consisting of a ¼ to ½ mile swim, 12-15 mile bike, and 3.2 mile run) all the way up to an Ironman triathlon. I’ve been doing them ever since,” said Evan Odim, a Fanwood resident who is currently on the board of directors for ReserveAid and has been involved with the organization since 2009.

Withrow, a resident of Scotch Plains, is a founding board member of ReserveAid and is responsible for recruiting many of the local athletes who race to benefit the charity. He has completed 4 Ironman triathlons, Lake Placid Ironman being the latest.   

In 2012, Team ReserveAid participated in the New York City Ironman, where Withrow completed his third Ironman and the team raised over $250,000 for the charity.

“Doing the Lake Placid Ironman with Team ReserveAid was my way of giving back to the military who do so much for our country. I could never do what they do for us but I could raise money and race in their honor,” said Thea Skanes.  This was Thea’s second Ironman with the team. She completed the Louisville Ironman in 2011 with Team ReserveAid as well. It was also the second time she ran for ReserveAid.  Thea is a Total Immersion and USA Triathlon coach and has found a passion for the sport.

“John Withrow approached me about being part of Team ReserveAid in the Louisville Ironman in 2011. My first reaction was that he was crazy but I changed my mind once he explained what the charity was about,” said Thea. Her goal was to complete an Ironman race and after finishing the Lake Placid Ironman, she has reached that goal and much more.

Paul Armstrong, a resident from Westfield, after finishing the Lake Placid Ironman, has participated in three Ironman races. Paul joined the Marine Corps in 1984 and after leaving the Marines in 1989, he moved to Westfield, New Jersey. Paul is an active member in ReserveAid and has been involved for two years.

 “I lived in that world and I saw what these reservists go through. I spent most of my time overseas when I was in the Marines Corps and did a lot of training with different branches of the military.  The hardest challenge reservists go through is the separation from his or her family.  I’ve seen the struggles that people go through when they come home. There are a lot of physical challenges but there are also emotional challenges that can prevent someone from going back to his or her job after he or she comes back from active duty.”  

For more information on ReserveAid, and for instructions on how to donate, please go to