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Greg Cameron Biathlon raising money while keeping memory alive

Updated: 
July 16, 2017 - 12:05am

KOHALA COAST — Five years later, the memory is still alive, the sand is still deep, and proceeds raised are passing the century mark.

But first, the sand — that soft, shifty terrain at Hapuna Beach is what racers have to slog through for a mile every year during the annual Greg Cameron Biathlon. Before that, they swim a quick 400 meters in the sea only to get out and sprint just like they were walking.

“Just to make it hard,” Hawaii County fireman Kainoa Willey said of the reason behind designing the run through the tough stuff, a hallmark — inside joke even — that pays homage to determination and no-nonsense attitude that comprised the former firefighter Cameron. “That’s just the kind of guy he was.”

Around 65 people took part in the fifth annual event, which benefits the Greg Cameron Firemen’s Fund, a nonprofit with the mission to provide financial support to Hawaii Fire Department employees who face injury or prolonged illness.

Half a decade in, they’ve raised around $100,000.

But the event is two-fold, as it keeps Cameron’s memory alive and his family bonded to his firefighting one.

“He was a great guy,” Ethan, Cameron’s 9-year-old son who finished second in his age division, said his takeaway of the event was. “He was really nice. Thank you for remembering my dad and helping raise money for firefighters.”

Greg Cameron was a firefighter, paramedic and fire-rescue specialist who passed away in 2012 after an extended bout with cancer.

Lacey, his daughter, said the event every year is an emotional reminder of the impact he had on so many lives, but a celebration, too, as lives move on but families stay bonded.

“We just want to say thank you,” she said.

And in triathlon and biathlon-rich West Hawaii, a little racing competition is par for the course.

Lifeguard Jason Freitas took top honors, as he has every year he’s competed. Short distances on a beach he calls his workplace is like home court advantage for him. Still, it was the reason behind the cause and incentive to get the younger generation active that he likes most.

“I hope that it just keeps growing,” he said. “I hope there’s many more to come.”

Saturday marked Cameron’s birthday. He was an avid outdoorsman with a spirit for adventure. The foundation’s insignia and T-shirt has a silhouette of the paramedic rappelling down a rescue helicopter rope, one of which flew by the beach at the start of the morning to mark the occasion. Then the racers were in the water and on to the sand.

“My calves, they’re feeling it already,” said Taylor Reid, who came over from Hilo and finished second in the 20-29 age division. “It seems like 90 percent of your energy goes to kicking sand.”

That was the point, making it something difficult enough to need determination in a spot where Cameron used to swim before and after work and where his ashes were scattered.

“He’s figuratively and literally here,” Willey said. “It’s a special place.”

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