Tony DeGiosio will tackle two separate obstacles, both at the same time.

The 42-year-old Summit Hill native will take part in his first Olympic-distance triathlon on Sunday, July 18, at Mauch Chunk Lake Park. One part of the challenge will be for himself.

The event will test his stamina and provide a personal benchmark for fitness.

"I had to build myself up from not even knowing how to swim one year ago," says DeGiosio, who works in the pharmaceutical profession.

To get in shape, he's taken on a grueling exercise campaign, including swimming a mile in the morning and taking part in various races and sprint triathlons.

"I did my first triathlon in the springtime. I did the Lake Nockamixon Steelman competition," he notes.

Taking part in an Olympic-distance event in his home area will be a dream come true for a man who says he's always admired marathons and other races held in Carbon County. He sees the Anthracite Triathlon as the granddaddy of them all and a chance to be part of an event that will take him into his hometown.

"I grew up in Summit Hill and had heard of the Anthracite Triathlon and had always wanted to do it," says DeGiosio.

The 1.5K swim will utilize Mauch Chunk Lake. The challenging 40K bike loop will begin at the lake, pass through the towns of Summit Hill, Lansford, Nesquehoning and Jim Thorpe, and then finish back at the lake. The 10K run will be on the Switchback Trail.

For DeGiosio, the second part of a double challenge is that he'll be fighting for a cause - to raise awareness in support of those affected by autism.

DeGiosio and wife Cathy, a Nesquehoning native, are parents of Anthony, 12, and teen daughters Tori and Becca. The family lives in Jefferson Township, East of Scranton.

On Oct. 2, 2000, Anthony was only two years old when diagnosed with PDD, or pervasive developmental disorder. It was the start of a journey for the DeGiosio family, a mission to learn as much as possible about autism and learning disorders, find ways to deal with it, and reach out to help others in the same situation.

Young Anthony was the subject of a TIMES NEWS feature story two years ago. He is non-verbal and studies American Sign Language and is friendly and interactive, constantly observing the world around and working on his communication skills.

The DeGiosios say Anthony has benefited from a wide range of programs, including early instruction at the Danville Area School District, a statewide leader in autism support classes. He also attended autistic support class at Moscow Elementary, part of the North Pocono School District.

But he makes progress year-round. Each summer, he travels to Camp Emerge, Millville, a therapeutic getaway for autistic children.

The camp is a three-weekend opportunity set up directly for families of those touched by autism. The camp is designed to help bring families together to work on their feelings, fears, dreams, and relationships. The atmosphere allows families to sit back, relax and be together without the worry of judgment or pressure to explain differences.

The DeGiosios serve on the camp's board of trustees.

DeGiosio will take part in the Anthracite Triathlon as part of Team 4 Autism, an athletic fundraising program in which participants select the sport, the event, and where the funds will be directed.

Train 4 Autism was started by parents, not athletes. Many Train 4 Autism participants are persons competing in their first athletic event ever, or athletes, for instance, who choose to walk a race instead of run. More information about Team 4 Autism is available at their website.

The DeGiosios have become staunch autism awareness advocates. They routinely offer support and guidance to others and have taken a leadership role with the disorder. They offer tips and advice to other families and can be reached at: degfam92@verizon.net [2].

In the meantime, DeGiosio trains for the big day and the double challenge. For him, it's the opportunity of a lifetime to match his endurance against obstacles of a big hometown triathlon. And if he's able to focus attention on autism and Camp Emerge at the same time, he's already victorious.