Adventures With a Purpose: Helena Rice’s Transformative Journey with Project Athena

Helen Rice and the entire Rim to Rim to Rim Team during the iconic Grand Canyon Trek in 2021.

Aside from heading Rob Rice Homes, an award-winning residential home building company, Helena Rice has accomplished what many would consider impossible feats: crossing the Grand Canyon twice, kayaking around the Florida Keys, and trekking the Zion National Park in Utah – not once, but twice. These incredible achievements are a testament to the transformative power of Project Athena, an organization that empowers individuals to push past their limits and achieve the extraordinary.

Robyn Benincasa, Project Athena founder, brings photos of every participant, called Athena or Zeus, who have lost their health battles. It is a tribute to adventure with them.

“The community is moving me in many ways,” Helena explains, “and I want to go out with people that never thought they could do something like this. It’s truly life-changing!”

What Is Project Athena?

Project Athena is a nonprofit organization serving as a beacon of hope and strength for those who have faced medical or traumatic obstacles in their lives. Through unwavering support, encouragement and validation, this nonprofit organization ignites a fire within individuals, inspiring them to rise up and transform from survivors into unstoppable adventurers.

Led by motivational speaker and World Champion Adventure Racer Robyn Benincasa, Project Athena provides four yearly adventures offering mental and physical challenges to participants in a supportive, non-competitive environment. The organization values teamwork and emphasizes the importance of fostering a sense of community among all partakers.

Helena’s Involvement With Project Athena

Helena Rice enjoying the Zion Adventure in September 2022 amidst the cold and rain.

“It’s not really normal to do it for five years (since 2018) in a row,” says Helena, “but I became attached very quickly.” Despite her involvement in competitive triathlons, she found Project Athena’s culture more enjoyable than training alone. “I found out about it through a friend who listened to Robyn Benincasa give a motivational speech at their company,” she shares. While she doesn’t face any medical obstacles, Helena confesses that she is “hooked” by the various adventures and sense of camaraderie and teamwork Project Athena offers.

During her first Canyon adventure, Helena had a profound experience with one of the women, a 23-year-old breast cancer survivor who had a double mastectomy. “I happened to end up on the trail with her for about six hours on the second day in the Canyon,” Helena recalls. “She talked about how difficult her life was and how she didn’t have a lot of family support behind her.”

Despite the woman’s fierce determination to fight the disease, she confided that she had contemplated taking her own life. “It was a raw and emotional experience,” Helena explains, “and I have remained in touch with her through Facebook and was devastated to learn that her cancer returned.”

Helena was impressed by how Project Athena, as a grassroots organization, had an incredible impact on people’s lives. “There’s something about doing something new, scary and challenging with people that creates an automatic bond between yourselves, and Robyn’s ability to unite people within this fierce team is something I’ve never seen anybody do.”

As human beings, we all have an innate desire to make a difference and give back to our community. “Rob and I try everything we can to help our community and Project Athena gave me a chance to give back,” she reflects.

Participating in Project Athena was a life-changing experience for Helena and has made an impact on the people around her. Additionally, Helena’s participation in the organization has raised awareness and encouraged others to get involved as well. “It feels great knowing I made an impact on a friend, and she’s going to donate and experience the same

Robyn Benincasa leads the team in a sermon on one of the adventures. Part of each adventure is honoring and remembering survivors and those who have lost.

thing I did. She’s helping a survivor keep going!”

“We all get stuck in our comfort zones, thinking that we are not capable of doing certain things. Joining Project Athena’s adventures with the survivors showed me that I am capable of so much more.” Through this organization, Helena met incredible individuals who have given her a different perspective on life, one that is physically grueling but also incredibly rewarding. As she looks back on her journey, she realizes it’s not just about giving back but also about keeping that adventure spirit in life, challenging yourself to do things you never thought were possible, and sharing those experiences with people who need it most.

As the saying goes, “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” She might not be able to join this year’s adventures, but Helena shares, “I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.”

If you want to join a Project Athena adventure and help raise funds for a survivor, you can get in touch with them directly here.

Want to learn more about Rob Rice Homes? You can visit their website here.


Rob Rice is Thurston County’s largest local homebuilder and was voted the Best of South Sound numerous times, building more than 3,500 homes over the last 35 years.