This blog project was a collaboration with the Challenged Athlete's Foundation (CAF), Graced by Grit, Choice Juice, Studio Carre and the Nurture Blog. As a group, we set out to create images that would highlight, generate excitement and support around the upcoming 24th annual CAF Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon.
The CAF mission statement reads: No challenge is too great with the right support. That is why our goal is to provide physically challenged people with the tools they need to pursue active, healthy lifestyles. We advocate for all levels of physical activity as a way to enhance the quality of life for all."
I first attended the annual CAF triathlon as a spectator in October of 2014. I remember that early fall morning in like it was yesterday. Robin Williams had died earlier that year. He was an active supporter of the foundation. A video was presented at the start of the race, outlining his contributions to the organization was an impactful tear jerker. "The Sock Guy" designed and gave a pair of rainbow-patterned socks with "Nanu-Nanu" written on them to each participating athlete's that year in his Robin's honor. The race had not even started, and already I was crying. That was the moment that my CAF crush began. Take a minute to watch last year's event video; I dare you not to cry.
If you choose to attend the triathlon as a spectator this year or better yet donate in support of an athlete or even participate as an athlete, I can promise your life will be changed. Standing above the cove watching the start of the event is surreal. Words cannot describe the emotions that will well up in your heart at the beginning of the race. As you gaze at the crowd, you will witness a sea of people who have amazing life stories. You will see single, double, triple and quadruple amputees who have lost their limbs as a result of accidents or disease. You will see hundreds of wheelchairs operated by paraplegics and quadriplegics. Some of the athletes who participate in the Children's Race do not have any limbs at all.
On October 22, you will witness such an overwhelming amount of "disability, " but you won't notice it. Instead, you will be overwhelmed with a tremendous amount of joy, grit, perseverance, and determination. There is no self-pity, no evidence of defeat just 200 athletes coming together to show what happens when life presented them with a set of undesirable circumstances and they have all chosen victory over defeat. You will see an impressive demonstration of the tenacity of the human spirit.
Our CAF model for this shoot is Danielle McLoughlin; I encourage you to take a moment to visit the link to her bio on the CAF website. She is also the author of a blog "Cancer ate my leg." Danielle is one of the many CAF athletes who demonstrate by the way they live their lives that triumph after adversity is more than possible. With the right attitude and the appropriate support overcoming life's challenges is probable.
This year, I have decided to complete the 10-mile run. I'm not a runner. In fact, I hate running. However, I have made it a personal goal to participate because The CAF organization and all of the athletes greatly inspire me, and it is my pleasure to do my small part to support them.
I'm pretty sure the CAF event was conceptualized as a way for non-disabled people to raise money to help challenged athletes obtain the equipment and support they need to perform at their highest athletic level. But amazingly, the athletes with disabilities inspire the rest of us, and the gift of inspiration is priceless. Take a minute to watch the CAF video again then think about what you feel would be impossible for you to achieve in your own life. Consider reaching for the unattainable and see what happens, you might be pleasantly surprised.