Have you ever wondered who dreams up a non-profit, then dedicates countless hours and funds in order to help others? Well, wonder no longer! Over the next several weeks, I have the pleasure of interviewing Team R4V’s Board of Directors and Leadership. Team R4V’s board is composed of six individuals who are on a journey of giving back, and using sports as the avenue to touch countless veterans who have made incredible sacrifices for their country.
This week, I have the honor of introducing the Co-Founder of Team R4V, Bethany Pribila.
You have competed in numerous athletic events, from marathons, triathlons to ultras, so you obviously love the racing atmosphere. What is one of your favorite races you competed in and what about that race was so memorable?
The Army Ten Miler (ATM) in Washington DC is one of my favorite races. There is nothing special about the course or anything particularly significant about the distance, but the participants make the ATM a very special race. The ATM is a very popular race among disabled veterans and each of the 3 years I’ve competed, I’ve had the opportunity to run amongst our country’s heroes. They are an inspiration. And the disabled veterans in the ATM are the inspiration behind Team R4V.
What role has sports and athletics played in your life?
I was definitely a tomboy growing up. From a very young age, I wanted to do everything my older brother did and this often involved sports. I can remember begging to be on the swim team when I was 4 years old because my brother was on the team, but the swim team’s policy was the minimum age was 5. The coach finally acquiesced and told my dad I could be on the team if I could swim a whole lap (25 yards). I did, but I chose not to be on the team – I just didn’t like being told I couldn’t be on the team. Besides, swim practice was going to interfere with gymnastics, which was my first love at the time.
My family moved to Hong Kong when I was in elementary school and just beginning to learn to play tennis. In a foreign
country where I didn’t speak the language, tennis became a common language I spoke with other girls – a way to communicate and to bridge our cultural differences.
Tennis played a similar role for me when I moved back to the States and, eventually, when I went off to college. My closest friends from Oberlin were fellow tennis players and other student athletes. As an adult, athletics has continued to provide that common language with others. It never ceases to amaze me how perfect strangers open up to one another while on a 5-mile run together.
As a professional in a fast-paced and often stressful career, sports provide an opportunity for me to decompress and unwind from my day. They also provide an immediate bond both with colleagues and adversaries who share my passion for sports.
When you are not serving on Team R4V’s board, what do you do?
When I am not serving on Team R4V’s board or training for an event, I practice energy law. It may seem a bit odd that an energy lawyer would be one of the founders of a charity supporting disabled veterans, but I think my background in college and in my career explain why I am a part of Team R4V.
I chose to attend Oberlin College for many reasons – I wanted a great education from a top notch small liberal arts school; I wanted to play varsity tennis; and I wanted to make a difference in the world. Oberlin’s slogan, “Think one person can change the world? So do we.”, resonated with me. My experiences at Oberlin played an important role in shaping who I am and what I believe.
After law school and a few years in private practice, I found my niche in energy law. My husband, Joe Plank, was being transferred to the Pentagon and I started researching law firms in Washington, DC. Miller, Balis & O’Neil, P.C. (MBO), the firm where I have been practicing for the past 5 years, caught my attention immediately. MBO is a small energy law boutique firm that proudly announces its motto: “Serving those that serve the public.” This philosophy, too, resonated with me.
It is because I believe one person can make a difference and because I believe in serving those who serve our country that I believe in Team R4V.
If there is one thing the readers of this post take away, what would do you hope they get from it?
There are a lot of reputable organizations out there that support veterans and their families. There is also a lot of need for support of veterans and their families. Team R4V is not trying to compete with those other organizations and Team R4V is not trying to fill every need. Instead, Team R4V is focusing on one challenge – to rehabilitate disabled veterans through their involvement in athletics. I personally believe in the healing power of physically activity. I believe that involvement in sports and athletics can heal the mind, body and soul. And I believe that through sports and athletics we can help our veterans return to baseline and then beyond.