In 1985 Jim MacLaren, a standout football and lacrosse athlete at Yale, was hit by a bus while riding his motorcycle and his left leg below the knee had to be amputated. Fueled by his competitive and athletic spirit, he recovered and went on to finish the Ironman Hawaii in 10 hours, 42 minutes. Then, in 1993, during the Orange County Triathlon, he was struck by a van while on his bike, hit a signpost, and became a quadriplegic. He went on to become a motivational speaker
Bob Babbitt, founder of Competitor Magazine, dedicated to triathlons, cycling and running and himself an Ironman competitor, met MacLaren during the Hawaii Ironman. It was his first encounter with an athlete running on a prosthetic leg. He was awestruck at the determination and perseverance of disabled athletes. After MacLaren’s second accident, when he was bound to a wheelchair, Babbitt and some fellow athletics enthusiasts raised funds to purchase a van which MacLaren could drive with his hands. They raised more than they needed and Babbitt and MacLaren founded the Challenged Athletes Foundation® to support other disabled athletes in their efforts to remain active.
Babbitt’s belief is to stick with our big ideas, especially when they might seem impossible, and to seek out the experiences that will make an impact on your life and in your community.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation® provides universal access to physical activity and sport through global grant distributions, camps, clinics, mentoring and motivation.
No challenge is too great with the right support. That’s why our goal is to provide physically challenged people with the tools they need to pursue active and healthy lifestyles. We advocate for all levels of physical activity as a way to enhance quality of life for all.
No matter if they’re headed to the Paralympics, or playing tag with their grandkids, if an athlete has the desire to pursue an active lifestyle, the CAF is there to support them.
The CAF Access for Athletes grant program gives grants to individuals with a permanent disability who need cash to cover costs in the following three categories:
- Equipment expenses (prosthetics, adaptive & non-adaptive sport equipment)
- Travel/Competition Expenses (entry fees, flights, and lodging for an event)
- Coaching/Training expenses (gym membership, paying a coach or a personal trainer)
The CAF partners with other organizations and companies to support events for disabled athletes. They are the official charity partner of the Empire State Building Run-Up (ESBRU) with a designated heat in the race for challenged athletes. Thousands of runners from around the world enter – all vying for a chance to race up the Empire State Building’s 86 flights and 1,576 stairs. Interested runners can find out more at esbnyc.com.
Since 1994, over 13,000 funding requests from people with physical challenges in all 50 states and dozens of countries have been satisfied with grants totaling more than $76 million. Additionally, CAF’s outreach efforts reach another 60,000 individuals each year. Whether it’s a $2,500 grant for a handcycle, helping underwrite a carbon fiber running foot not covered by insurance, or arranging enthusiastic encouragement from a mentor who has triumphed over a similar challenge, CAF’s mission is clear: give opportunities and support to those with the desire to live active, athletic lifestyles. To learn more, visit challengedathletes.org or call 858-866-0959.
The CAF grant program is accepting applications from Sept 1st 2017 through December 1st 2017. For 2017, they distributed 2,448 grants totaling over $3.7 million. The youngest recipient was 5 years old and the oldest was 83.
By physical disability, the grants broke down as follows: Amputee 20%, Paraplegia 17%, Visual Impairment 15%, Spina Bifida 11%, Cerebral Palsy 10%, Other 27% (For a full breakout of Grant distribution, click here)
“Any individual who has a physical challenge should never feel left out from participating in sports or physical activities. At CAF, we believe sports can change lives. That’s why we’re so committed to our grant programs – they are unique in the world of adaptive sports. A single grant empowers challenged athletes which in turn creates positive change for individuals, families, communities, and society at large.” – Bob Babbitt
Through the years, we have written about athletes who are inspiring to us and who, in turn, have been inspired and supported by the Challenged Athletes Foundation®.
Jamie Whitmore excelled at off road triathlons, racking up more championship wins than any other male or female. Then at 31, cancer halted her course. It was a rare form of cancer which caused a grapefruit sized tumor to grow out of the sciatic nerve sheath. Her left foot was paralyzed. Her husband was talking to Bob Babbitt one day and the subject of the Paralympics came up. With the CAF support, Jamie became a paracyclist, winning 2 medals in the Rio Paralympic Games in 2016!
Another of our inspirations was Brandon Holiday who grew up athletic – playing various sports, tennis, baseball and training in martial arts. He also grew up with Systemic Lupus, Primary Addison’s and a blood clotting condition (Antiphosolipid Syndrome). In 2006, after four months in the hospital battling with blood clots, wound care and hyperbaric chamber treatments, doctors had to amputate his left leg below the knee. Reaching out for help facing his challenges dealing with his injuries and disease led him Challenged Athletes Foundation® who awarded him a grant to travel and attend the Extremity Games. It was life-changing for him. Over the past 9 years Brandon has been working with other disabled community members, veterans through adaptive sports and mentoring outreach.
“I see the smiles and light in their eyes as they try and succeed at the adaptive clinics. Being able to see the changes in attitude and focus of the people whose lives we impact through sports and outreach helps me heal mentally and physically. The power of sport has changed my life for the better.”
For more information on CAF grants, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.challengedathletes.org/programs/grants/
For more information on the Challenged Athletes Foundation® –