Somewhere around mile 16 of the Louisville, KY Ironman Triathlon in 2013, Fred Soller, an SAP Hybris vice president of Sale, was commiserating with a fellow participant. Hardly an unusual sight in the grueling long-distance triathlon. “It’s hot (98F), it’s brutal, and you just want to be done with it.” After a few shared moments of misery, Fred went on his way wishing the other athlete all the best.
Imagine his surprise when six weeks later at a quarterly business review meeting in the Atlanta he would meet the same individual – Tim Davey, a regional vice president with the HR line of business.
That was the start of a journey in support of inclusion for a greater good, rooted in a shared love of endurance athletics. It was also Tim’s introduction to a charitable organization close to Fred’s heart that has found its way into his.
Next month, on November 5, both men will participate in Ironman Florida and be fully kitted out in gear to boost awareness of the Kyle Pease Foundation (KPF), an organization “dedicated to raising funds to promote success for persons with disabilities by providing assistance to meet their individual needs through sports.” That mission mouthful is beautifully encapsulated in their mantra: Where There’s a Wheel There’s a Way.
The upcoming triathlon is one of a number of races the pair, who now consider themselves close friends, have participated in supporting KPF. Of note was a summertime 5K pushing Grant, a 10-year-old athlete with autism, in a modified chair – a first for Tim. (See the photo above.) He remembers, he says, seeing Grant’s big, unstoppable smile throughout the race, supported and cheered on by spectators. “It was one thing to participate or volunteer, but to be in an event, pushing this guy with Fred made it incredibly meaningful.”
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Fred, who got involved with KPF after meeting Brent Pease and his brother Kyle in 2012 and has been a race participant or volunteer ever since, knows the joy of watching someone else feel a sense of accomplishment and the thrill of competition.
His “best ever” race included pushing Curtis Ward, a 150-pound man born with cerebral palsy, for four hours over 26.2 miles in the Marine Corps Marathon in 2014. Seeing Curtis’ smile and the constant high-fiving with spectators “The pain or agony I could have felt never even surfaced because of the joy he was taking from this. It became something significant for me.”
Fred and Tim are accustomed to competing for themselves – a solo pursuit – as a personal challenge – to reach a goal, push themselves, and help “turn the volume down on work a little” says the latter. What’s more is they have competed separately in their fair share of marathons (full or ultra) and half- and full-distance Ironmans over the years. That said, crossing any finish line in any race with KPF’s greater good in mind – particularly when they are accompanied by a differently-abled athlete – has redefined what it means to do so. “When you are involved with helping someone else,” says Fred, “it makes the pursuit that much more rewarding.”
A CULTURE OF UNDERSTANDING, INCLUSION AND GIVING
While the Foundation, the athletes, and a love of endurance sports fuels them, so too does the culture at SAP. Both agree the shift we have experienced over the past few years has moved towards seeing someone beyond their role or function, and understanding the whole person. That culture of understanding, followed by inclusion and giving were evident when they approached John Gurski, CEC North America general manager, and David O’Malley, general manager and senior vice president of Financial Services, with the idea of having Brent and Kyle present at their Q2 leadership meetings in Newtown Square. (Both Tim and Fred support the FSI market unit in their work at SAP.)
For an audience of about 50 people and by sharing the story of their lives and KPF, the brothers brought to life the theme for 2016: NO LIMITS. “Many people were moved by their presentation – they made an impact,” Fred says. Tim builds on the sentiment noting they feel “incredibly fortunate to work at SAP and with compassionate people. But at some point, it becomes less about you and more about the impact you’ll have on a community and people around you. That’s the message we wanted to convey with that meeting.”
A HALL PASS OR TWO
So until November 5, Tim and Fred who happen to live about a mile or so apart in the Atlanta suburbs, will continue to train with “a hall pass” from their supportive families. The reality is both travel extensively for their jobs, come home, and then disappear hours at a time running, cycling or swimming, sometimes together, sometimes not.
The bond they found at mile 16 on a Louisville road has certainly been strengthened. For Fred’s part, “Just being out there with someone who is very much aligned with my life and – we’ve motivated and helped each other. He’s a good friend.” Tim feels the same. “We’re neck-deep in this together.”