CAF Grant Program – Inspiring Athletes

Jim MacLaren


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.

Bob Babbitt

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. 

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Brooke Artesi – Hiking Inspiration

Brooke-Artesi-Shawangunk-Ridge-TrailHiking has been a passion for Brooke Artesi for over 15 years – ever since her boyfriend (now husband ) Steve took her to the Bear Mountain portion of the Appalachian Trail.  She fell in love with the exhilaration of the hike and the welcoming shelters along the way.  In 2015, Brooke completed the 20 mile AT hike on the Shawangunk Trail  in less than 8 hours, fast walking all the way.  Her ultimate goal is to someday complete the entire trail – all 2,166 miles through 13 states!  In the meantime, she hikes as often as possible, being a mother of 2, wife, and owner/Chief Prosthetist & Orthotist of Sunshine Prosthetics and Orthotics in Wayne NJ.

Brooke has been a right leg below the knee amputee since the age of 15, due to a train accident. Hiking was a challenge which she soon mastered.  Having her first son, Nicco, didn’t stop her. While she was home with Nicco, she joined a group called Baby and Me Hike and carried him in a back carrier on every Tuesday hike.


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Dan Nevins – Wounded Warrior, Yoga Teacher, Motivational Speaker

Dan Nevins (Jim Campbell

Dan Nevins (Jim Campbell

In 2004, during combat in Iraq, an improvised explosive device (IED) detonated beneath Dan Nevins’ vehicle. He lost both legs below the knee, and lives with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and the emotional wounds of war.  He also lives with determination, resiliency, a positive attitude and a passion for helping other wounded vets do the same through yoga.

“I just remember having this revelation that I’m alive, I’m alive! That I better do something to keep it that way.”

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Brandon Holiday – Athlete, Community force for the Disabled, Inspiration

Brandon Holiday and Tyson

Brandon Holiday and Tyson

Brandon Holiday 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).  After college, he became a police officer but an injury in the line of duty and medical complications from Systemic Lupus forced him to leave the police force.  The changing symptoms of his disease made it necessary for him to adjust his life. Lupus is an autoimmune disease where the body attacks itself and causes symptoms like chronic fatigue, pleurisy, high fevers, restlessness, and loss of kidney function.

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.

“I realized that there had to be more than just accepting you’re depressed and here is some medicine to help.”

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Julian Torres – Wounded Warrior and Inspiring Mountain Climber

Julian Torres trained in the mountains of California

Julian Torres trained in the mountains of California (source: article by Jeff Jardine )

In August 2009, Marine Julian Torres got orders to report to Jacksonville NC to  join the “Never to Quit Battalion” 2nd Battalion 6th Marines. He became a Machine Gun Squad Leader, and in January 2010 was sent to Machine Gun Leaders Course.  Hand-picked by the battalion commander he was meritoriously promoted to the rank of Sergeant.  Torres was sent to Marjah, in the Helmand Providence of Afghanistan to fight the Taliban forces and in less than a month, his life was changed forever when an explosive device blew off both of his legs at the knees.

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