Winter Vinecki, 14, Salem, Ore.

Family Health
on April 12, 2012

At age 14, athletic phenom Winter Vinecki already has a long and impressive list of accomplishments under her belt. The triathlete and runner is a two-time IronKids National Triathlon Champion, has raised over $400,000 for prostate cancer research, and travels the world as a motivational speaker.

A natural-born runner, Winter has been competing in races since she was 5 years old. But after her father, Michael Vinecki, succumbed to prostate cancer in 2009, Winter vowed to do something in his honor. Combining her passion for running with her philanthropic vision, the teen founded Team Winter at age 9, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that raises funds and awareness for prostate cancer while encouraging children to lead a healthy and active lifestyle. Since then, she has helped raise $400,000 through sponsors and donors from around the world.

Winter’s current goal? To become the youngest-ever person to complete a marathon on all seven continents before her 15th birthday. The ambitious young runner has already checked North America, Africa and Antarctica off the list, and plans to tackle South America in June and Asia in August.

In addition to her world marathon tour, Winter also tours the nation and world as a motivational speaker at schools. Winter’s message to peers is simple: Dream big. “I talk about dreaming and living big,” she says. “I encourage adults and children all over world to race for a cause, whether it’s breast cancer or leukemia or whatever they’re passionate about. I’m also passionate about encouraging people to have healthy lifestyle. Childhood obesity is such a problem. So I push for kids to get out there and live a positive lifestyle.”

She may have skyrocketed to international fame, but Winter never loses sight of her original mission: To raise awareness about an all-too-common disease that touches countless lives. Each first-place trophy she receives is sent to a person affected by prostate cancer as a gesture of goodwill. When asked if she ever faces burnout, Winter responds with an emphatic no. “I’m doing what I love,” Winter explains. “You can’t get burned out when you’re doing something you truly love. And when you’re racing in your father’s memory—that’s the greatest motivation there is.”

Found in: Family Health