On Saturday this past weekend I attended the CAF’s A Night to Celebrate event. I learned about it several months ago and decided I would attend for several reasons. 1) I am a Challenged Athlete 2) I was a CAF grant recipient 3) I wanted to meet other Challenged Athletes 4) It was in the city where I’m currently living–Tustin.
I had a great time. At first, I was a little shy (as I normally am), but after meeting and chatting with the first person and his wife, it was easy. With the Challenged Athletes Foundation, they help people with any kind of challenge. The first person I met was near blind, yet had participated in three triathlons! Not an easy feat for someone that can’t see considering there are run, swim, and bike portions. I met another guy who had jumped into a lake when he was younger and became a quadriplegic, but because of his strong will he was walking (not easily) and running again. The two most recent recipients were young 11-year olds that had multiple sclerosis and were confined to wheelchairs. Yet because of grants from the CAF for more advanced wheelchairs, they are leading active lifestyles which benefit them greatly. Some recently-made friends were also there. Beth Sanden whom I had met last year at a swim clinic she hosts was there. Two other Challenged Athletes who I swam with to the end of the San Clemente pier and back were also there. Beth is amazing, as of this year she is a Guinness World Record holder for being the fastest person to handcycle marathons on all seven continents and the North Pole. She is also a Challenged Athlete.
As an athlete myself, I know the benefits that being active provides. In addition to all the health benefits, it elevates the mood, something I learned as a runner. I loved the runner’s high after any kind of run, good or bad. I get the same feeling after a swim or the gym. The increased blood flow to the brain that exercise provides helps improve a host of functions. For myself, since my traumatic brain injury, I know that swimming helps my memory. If I’ve been extremely forgetful lately, I can usually rectify the problem with a good swim session. It has to be done at least three times a week to really benefit me, though, and I don’t mind squeezing into my schedule!
I learned that the CAF doesn’t just benefit the grant recipient, but also their families. It was heartening to hear how the mothers and fathers felt great joy in seeing their child succeed and overcome their disability and become a different person altogether. An active lifestyle makes Challenged Athletes feel a lot less like they have a disability. I talked to several people there who said they don’t feel disabled because of all they are capable of. It truly is amazing when you think of it. Here are these people with physical limitations doing things that most able-bodied people wouldn’t think of doing.
It was great connecting with similar people and learning how the CAF came about (CAF history). I got to meet one of the co-founders, as well as the executive director. I think it was great for them to put a face, finally, to this thankful recipient of running blades. I look forward to putting those blades to good use.