Benjamin Tritt, recipient of the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division Distinguished Community Service Award, was among 90 individuals and 39 teams honored with various awards in a special video program. Tritt, the chief engineer of Directed Energy Weapon Systems, received the award for his significant contributions to the Ainsley’s Angels of America organization.
Ainsley’s Angels is an adaptive sport organization founded to provide the ability for people with special needs to participate in endurance running events. Each chapter is known as an Ambassadorship based on their mission of inclusion through advocacy, education and celebration, and comprises riders, runners and guardian angels—the volunteers who run the event. Volunteer runners push riders in specially designed running chairs in races across the country. In addition to many local races, the group also participates in large races, such as the Marine Corps Marathon and the Historic Half.
Tritt and his wife, Michele, both avid runners, founded the Fredericksburg Ambassadorship after realizing the need for inclusion in running events for local citizens with special needs. The couple attended specialized training and organized fundraising events in order to purchase race equipment and special running chairs for the participants to use.
“I’ve learned and grown to appreciate the challenges that our riders and their families face every day,” Tritt said. “Something as simple as going to the store or a doctor’s visit can be a huge logistical challenge. I have so much respect for what they overcome each day.”
Due to recent COVID-19 pandemic restrictions on outdoor activities, Tritt and his wife, along with the Virginia Beach and Washington, D.C., chapters, organized virtual races for the participants in order to stay connected. Runners post about their runs, and riders and their families earn miles by sharing stories or establishing cheers for the runners. The riders stay engaged in a broader community even though they are not physically in the races. An added bonus, says Tritt, is the “unexpected result of establishing Ainsley’s Angels of Fredericksburg in a new community where riders, their families, runners and others are able to connect and relate. It’s a brand new community of support.”