Optimist May 2013

In the Spotlight: Jeff Cohen

Jeff Cohen spends most of his time in a courtroom. But when he’s not in front of a jury or in his office preparing for a trial, you can probably find this criminal defense attorney training for his next event with TEAM TO END AIDS (T2), an endurance training program benefiting AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA). T2 trains participants to complete a marathon, trail run, triathlon, or other fitness event while they raise funds for the lifesaving care, prevention, and advocacy programs of APLA.

In September of 2012, Jeff completed the Nautica Malibu Triathlon – International Distance with T2. As part of T2’s triathlon training program, Jeff would wake up every Monday morning for a 6:00 AM group swim; meet his teammates every Wednesday evening for a long bike ride followed by a run; and spend every Saturday morning on another long bike ride with his team.

“At times, it can be a struggle to fit everything in,” Jeff admits. “But this is important to me, so I make it work.”

Raising money for AIDS service organizations like APLA has been a priority for Jeff ever since he learned that his younger brother, James, was HIV-positive. James has been living with HIV for about 15 years and was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS in 2011. You can hear the emotion in Jeff’s voice as he talks about his brother.

“He’s a foster dad for two amazing kids. He’s a really awesome person. And he’s living with — not dying from — AIDS.”

During the 2012 training season, Jeff raised $8,000 for APLA. As a group, T2’s Nautica Malibu Triathlon participants raised about $150,000 for the organization.

Getting to know his fellow triathlon participants was one of the things that Jeff enjoyed most about the program.

“Part of the fun of the project is getting to do this with other people like you. You meet these people and you have this shared experience. You ride a bike next to them for an hour. Then you run four miles with them,” he explains. T2 staff members promote this sense of community at weekly coached workouts, through online forums, and with race-weekend activities and race day support.

Jeff has already signed up to participate in the 2013 Nautica Malibu Triathlon on September 7, 2013 with T2 — and he is taking on an additional challenge by signing up to compete in the Austin 70.3 Half Ironman with T2. This will be Jeff’s first half Ironman, but his passion for the cause will help drive him to the finish line.

“It’s an incredibly powerful feeling when you're able to marry the physical with the emotional,” Jeff says enthusiastically. “You never know how hard you can push your body physically until you have a cause to which you’re 100 percent committed [to] emotionally.”

To learn more about T2’s summer training season, visit TEAMTOENDAIDS.com.