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Tuesday, December 11 , 2018, 8:07 am | Fair 42º


Triathlon Not Just Business Venture for Ben Romo of Partners in Education

The executive director of the Santa Barbara nonprofit, the beneficiary of this year's event, has made a U-turn toward a healthier life

The Santa Barbara Triathlon, featuring multiple events this Friday through Sunday, has always been a well-received community event that benefits local nonprofits.

Every year the presenting sponsor — this year, Montecito Bank & Trust has the honors — chooses a local nonprofit that will benefit from the proceeds of the event.

In an online voting contest with about eight other Santa Barbara nonprofits, Santa Barbara Partners in Education, a program of the Santa Barbara County Education Office, emerged the winner.

Partners in Education strives to connect businesses and individuals with schools and the organizations to help improve public education in ways that support a better economy, the health of the community, and the well-being of local children and their families.

Executive Director Ben Romo said Partners in Education plans to use the proceeds to develop a volunteer recruitment and coordination program.

But for Romo, the triathlon is more than a business venture.

Two years ago, motivated by his growing 4-year-old daughter, Romo made the decision to change his life and get fit.

“I wasn’t healthy before,” he said. “I wasn’t living a very healthy life.”

He started working with personal trainer Shawn Banks, who helped him understand the science of nutrition and become more methodical in his workouts.

“I have a very busy life. I have a daughter, I have a family, my work is very busy, and I have volunteer commitments as well,” Romo said. “Shawn helped me learn how to fit in working out and how to work out in an efficient manner.”

For Ben Romo of Santa Barbara Partners in Education, this weekend's Santa Barbara Triathlon is more than a business venture.
For Ben Romo of Santa Barbara Partners in Education, this weekend’s Santa Barbara Triathlon is more than a business venture. (Valorie Smith / Noozhawk photo)

Romo lost 30 pounds by changing the way he ate and the way he worked out. With a diet rich in protein, vegetables and healthy fats such as nuts, Romo’s life began to transform.

Then the Santa Barbara Triathlon came up. Since Partners in Education became the beneficiary of the event, Romo has been training hard for it.

“What I really like is that it’s forced me to go outside of my comfort zone in a lot of different ways,” he said. “I was never into sports, and this was an opportunity to continue my fitness in a community event. It’s great to be part of something that’s communitywide. Each of these athletes, whether they’re top tier or like me, has their own story coming into this event.”

The most important change that has come with his new lifestyle, however, is Romo’s relationship with his daughter.

“I’m able to pick her up without being sore. I can take her for hikes, play with her, chase her much better. I’m able to adapt to what she wants to be doing,” he said. ““I’d like to live a long time so she has me in her life as much as possible.”

Not only is he physically fit enough to be a fun, active dad, but his health has allowed him to connect with her on another level as well.

“There’s a clarity that comes with being in good shape,” Romo said. “It’s helped me in terms of focus and structure, because I’m very scattered in my thinking. I’m much more present with my daughter now.”

The looming triathlon will create opportunities for the entire community, as well, with the Santa Barbara Partners in Education as its beneficiary.

“It’s kind of a testament to the elasticity of the human species and what we can do,” Romo said of the parallel between the organization and the event. “Our program is very much community based. We bring together a large mass of people who are stepping up to make a decision to overcome their own insecurities and to connect with a kid they would otherwise never connect with. It’s really making a decision to connect with people on a human level and engage socially.”

Just as the triathlon is a personal decision to make a commitment to one’s own health, Santa Barbara Partners in Education has made a commitment to the greater health of the community.

“People don’t have the opportunity to connect on a human level anymore,” Romo said. “Think about that little 8-year-old kid living in a very low-income isolated position, in a community that doesn’t make him feel welcomed or safe. All too often the immediate remedy for that little 8-year-old’s situation is a dark path. For example, gang involvement.”

The triathlon exemplifies the work Santa Barbara Partners in Education is doing to make strides in this lack of human connection.

“Even though it’s a very solitary sport, it’s very much a group identity. It’s a sense of togetherness that is too often lacking in our society,” Romo said. “So, I see that this event somewhat reflects what we’re trying to do with Partners.”

The triathlon has become a very central part of Romo’s life. His work, his health, his volunteering passions all revolve around it. Though it will provide many opportunities in all of these areas, what he’s hoping for deep down is a little simpler.

“What I really want is for it not to be exceedingly painful, and maybe to not come in dead last,” he said.

Click here for more information about how to get involved with Santa Barbara Partners in Education. Click here for more information about the Santa Barbara Triathlon.

Noozhawk intern Erin Stone can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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