COAL TOWNSHIP - Coal Township native Andrea Treese loves competing, staying fit, teaching children and helping those less fortunate.

The seven-year triathlete who resides in Phoenix, Ariz., will combine those attributes when she participates in an international Ironman competition Nov. 16 in Tempe, Ariz., while pursuing her ultimate goal of becoming eligible for the Ironman world championships in Kona, Hawaii.

The 31-year-old daughter of Andy and Rosemary Treese, of Trevorton Road, has competed in multiple marathons and triathlons in Philadelphia and Chicago for charity and is currently raising money for Smile Train, which provides funding for free cleft palate repair surgeries to those in need and helps train local doctors. Funds raised through the charitable organization make it possible for a child born with a cleft palate to eat, breathe, speak properly - and smile.

The New York City-based organization was founded in 1999 and is the world's largest charity that provides

corrective surgery for children with cleft lips and palates.

Treese arrived in her hometown Friday and attended a $20 night Saturday at the Fairview Gun Club organized by her mother and sister, Lori Schiccatano, to support her efforts at the upcoming competition and raise funds for Smile Train.

'Up against big dogs'

During an interview at the well attended fund-raiser, Treese said 2,000 competitors from around the world must swim 2.4 miles, bike ride 112 miles and then run a 26.2-mile marathon in 18 hours to earn the title of Ironman. It is the most urban full-distance race in North America.

The inaugural Ironman Arizona was held April 9, 2005, in cooperation with the City of Tempe and the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community. With its fast and flat course around Tempe Beach Park and Tempe Town Lake, and spectator-friendly atmosphere, the race quickly gained popularity. Given the desert heat, the race was moved to a cooler November race date in 2008, and it attracts a wide range of triathletes who have the whole summer to train.

The Ironman world championship is held in October.

"Being an Ironman is the ultimate. You're up against the big dogs," said Treese, who competed in a Half Ironman event last week near Flagstaff, Ariz., and plans to enter another one Oct. 12 in Phoenix. "There are incredible male and female athletes who compete in it, but I believe I'm ready physically and mentally. I get my inspiration and extra push from the charities I raise money for in the races."

She has earned honors in various competitions through the years, but views Ironman as the most challenging.

"It's an extremely difficult and remarkable competition," she said. "I train 15 to 20 hours per week and I also make sure I get the proper nutrition and drink plenty of water and Gatorade to stay hydrated."

Treese said she became a triathlete while training and racing with her other sister, Vicki Bobber, when they both lived in Philadelphia.

"I lived in Philly for nine years before moving to Arizona, where I'm a third-grade teacher and yoga instructor," she said. "I love teaching kids and that's why I choose to raise funds for children's charities whenever I compete in a race. It's sad to see children suffer from cleft lips and palates. I'm more than willing to help those less fortunate."

Thanks to everyone

Treese said her goal was to raise $5,000 at Saturday's fund-raiser, which featured food, beverages and free entertainment provided by members of the former group Blue Grass Headquarters and disc jockey Matt Schiccatano, who is Treese's brother-in-law.

"My mom and sister Lori did everything to put this event together," she said. "All I did was show up, shake some hands and say thank you. I can't thank them enough along with the rest of my large family and friends for supporting me and Smile Train."

She said her sister, Vicki, and her husband, Jason, held another fund-raiser for her and Smile Train Thursday in Philadelphia.

"Competing in Ironman competitions is extremely expensive, so I really appreciate whatever money I can raise," she said.

Treese, a 2001 graduate of Our Lady of Lourdes Regional High School, earned her teaching degree from Cabrini College in Radnor.

She plans to return to the area with the distinction of being known as an Ironman.