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Challenged Athletes Foundation

By: Scout Bassett, CAF Athlete & Spokesperson

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Many who have followed my journey know about the successes, the wins, the records, but there remains a story that I haven’t told enough. There are only two reasons that I am where and who I am today as an athlete and human being. First and foremost, I serve a God who has helped me to rise above so much pain, loss, and adversity in my life. And equally as important, He has surrounded me with the most incredible people to navigate life’s peaks and valleys.

Sometimes our greatest challenge is building the courage to start. I’ve gotten to countless start lines because of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. I grew up paralyzed by fear, embarrassed to be an amputee and ashamed of my story. I never once thought that someone who was burned in a fire, lived 7 years as an orphan in China, and faced with a rocky upbringing here in America was destined to do great things in this world. A childhood of largely marginalized experiences left me deflated and discouraged about my future. Truthfully, I did not think I belonged anywhere. When I wasn’t sitting on the sidelines of soccer fields or basketball courts, I occupied my time by reading every political memoir or biography from John Adams to Ronald Reagan by 7th grade! Oh did I mention I was/am a complete dork??

My breakthrough came in 2002 when a single piece of equipment (an Össur running leg) that I received through a CAF grant, changed me from the inside out. I ran for the first time at 14 years old and I haven’t stopped since. Running became a healing power in my life and transformed me from a painfully shy recluse to a young woman with confidence, passion, and drive. I made a vow to myself that I would never be ashamed of my story or who I am and from that moment on, I set out to run down every dream and conquer every fear and every struggle. I no longer wanted to merely exist, but found my calling in living to serve and help others fulfill their purpose. Yes a single piece of adaptive sports equipment changed the way I thought and lived!

My first time running – ever!

You may hear a thousand “Nos” but it only takes one “Yes” to change your life. If you have a dream or a goal, apply for a CAF Access for Athletes grant and make it happen! Perhaps your dream is to run around with your kids or maybe you want to be the next Paralympic champion – whatever your vision is, it all starts HERE. Let nothing stop you from doing what you love and loving what you do.

They say it’s not what you have, but who you have in life that counts. I do life with the best team in the world – my family, friends, coach, mentors, role models, mentees, and supporters. Truly it is this ‘A Team’ that keeps my heart beating. If you are reading this, I thank you for believing in me even when I did not believe in myself, for lifting me up when I’ve fallen, and for teaching me to live courageously.

I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that on this Thanksgiving, I am immensely grateful for my CAF family and supporters who took me from nothing to something. If you’ve ever wondered whether or not your efforts have made a difference in this world, I can assure you that you have done just that and so much more. My story is possible because of YOU! There are no words to adequately express my appreciation, but I hope this is a start: Thank you for allowing me to live a life beyond my dreams.

With love and gratitude,

SB

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On Veterans Day, our nation rises to salute and honor the service of all American military veterans and first responders. And while we hope you join us in thanking the military veterans in your life, as a supporter of the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s (CAF) Operation Rebound program, you honor and thank our military veterans EVERY DAY.

At CAF’s Operation Rebound program, we work daily to make sure our injured military have the support and equipment necessary for them to return to the warrior they once were, and still are within. Your support helps us get injured military personnel like Brad Snyder from the frontline to the finish line.

Veterans Day Featured Athlete: Brad Snyder

“We can’t choose the challenges we will face, we can only choose how we will face each challenge.  We can choose to face them with courage.  We can choose to be resilient, and to never back down.” 

Brad Snyder was an accomplished swimmer during his younger years in St. Petersburg, Florida, so much so that he eventually became captain of the swim team at the U.S. Naval Academy. Little did Brad know that swimming would one day be a form of rehabilitation for him.

In September of 2011, Snyder was in Afghanistan when an IED explosion permanently blinded him. Snyder soon realized that his life would forever be changed. But not completely changed. He still had swimming. “The pool wasn’t anything I necessarily had to adapt to,” he said. Snyder chose swimming as not only a form of personal rehabilitation, but as a way of showing his loved ones that he would be able to retain some normalcy in his life—that he would be OK. Snyder quickly exceled in para-swimming. Within one year of his injury, Snyder won two gold medals and a silver at the 2012 London Paralympic Games.

Recently, he was selected to represent the United States at the 2014 Pan Pacific Para-Swimming Championships. He’s not done, though. Snyder would like to go to the 2016 Paralympics as a triathlete, and he also competes in track. “Hopefully,” he says, “my performance will inspire people to adopt a positive outlook and face challenges with a lot of courage and virtue.”

Veterans Day Featured Athlete: Brad Snyder

Brad winning the Gold at the 2012 Paralympics

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Brad and his swim guide competing at the 2014 San Diego Triathlon Challenge with CAF!

CAF 2015 Grant Application Live Q&A Event

Join us for a LIVE Q&A session on Facebook and Twitter to answer your questions about CAF’s Access for Athletes Grant Application process. 

The 2015 Access for Athletes Grant Application is only open for ONE MORE MONTH, and it is imperative that all applicants complete and submit their applications before 12/5 at 5 p.m. PST.

If you have a physical disability that is recognized within the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) classifications, you are eligible to apply. CAF does not discriminate based on age, gender, level of ability or sport, but does require applicants to demonstrate a clear financial need for their grant request.

Access for Athletes is CAF’s flagship program — and steps in where rehabilitation and health insurance end by providing funding grants for equipment such as sports wheelchairs, handcycles, mono skis and sports prosthetics, and resources for training and competition expenses. Access for Athletes surmounts financial impediments to participation in sports, ensuring that challenged athletes are not left on the sidelines because they can’t afford expensive equipment or training costs. CAF believes participation in sports not only increases physical fitness and activity levels, but also enhances confidence and self-esteem.

In an effort to help answer some of your questions about how to apply for a grant, CAF will be hosting a LIVE social media Q&A session on Wednesday, November 5th. 
From 4 to 5 p.m. PST on 11/5, CAF staff members will be on hand to answer grantee questions on CAF’s Facebook and Twitter pages. 

HOW TO JOIN: 
RSVP to the Facebook event here
Any time before or during the event, submit your questions any of the following ways:
FACEBOOK:
- Post on the Facebook event page
- Comment on CAF’s announcement post on our Facebook timeline

TWITTER: Tweet @CAFoundation and include the hashtag #CAFGrantQA

You will receive “real time” responses from CAF between 4PM and 5PM on November 5.

WHAT TO DO BEFORE THE Q&A:
Please read the Frequently Asked Questions on our website at www.challengedathletes.org/GrantFAQ before the Q&A to see if your question has already been answered and to get an idea of what type of questions you would like to ask. Here are some suggested questions:

1. Who can write my medical reference letter, and what should it say?
2. How long should my biography be?
3. What if I want to go to multiple competitions throughout the year?
4. What is the equipment item I want is not in the dropdown list?
5. What is included in a coaching/training grant?

Remember, you can start submitting your questions NOW!

CAF Memories of Robin Williams - Scott Tinley

I’ve been thinking about the great ones lately, the leaders in their respective fields whose brilliance was impossible to compare. They were the first and perhaps only. They thrilled us like no other. And like many of Robin Williams’ fans, we’ve been watching his old films, reveling in his performances, laughing, looking for clues to his pain.  In Good Will Hunting, Robin Williams tells Matt Damon’s character that, “you’re a genius, Will. No one denies that. No one could possibly understand the depths of you.” But it was Robin who we could not understand the depths of.

CAF was blessed with the depths of Robin Williams. And every one of the thousands he touched with his wit and humor and unbridled kindness took a piece of him away, their lives now better, lighter, more livable. He particularly loved the kids at the San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) and though I never saw him angry, when he was hanging with the kids, you dare not interrupt. In Mrs. Doubtfire, Robin loses his patience only once when his wife, in divorcing him tries to keep him from seeing his kids. Perhaps what Robin saw in the physically challenged youth of the world were pure souls wondering why they had been dealt a tough blow, wondering why they couldn’t be free and happy like the other kids. Perhaps he saw himself.

And the kids loved him back.

Robin’s passing brought people together like the formation of some impromptu peleton.  It was that tragic catalyst that reminded us of our human frailties and the need to hold out a hand to the imperfect and the ill and anxious. It reminded us that he was a friend of CAF not because he had the chance to ride his bike with some of his pals or spend a few days in La Jolla. No, I think Robin Williams was a friend to CAF because he felt they are that big hand offering to make things a little better for the imperfect.

In the 1998 film, Patch Adams, Williams plays a med student who suggests that “our job is improving the quality of life, not just delaying death.” He did that job well.

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The SDTC Crew: Robin with Jim Ochowicz, Wendy Ingraham, Gerry Margolis and Scott Tinley

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SDTC Team Braveheart: Rudy Garcia-Tolson, Robin Williams and Scott Tinley

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At CAF, I think we have a unique view of the person Robin Williams was and will always continue to be in our hearts and minds. For me, it was a personally unique experience because I was the person who would oversee his event day activities and navigate him from location to location. Sounds easy, but I can tell you I was whoa-fully unprepared.

You see, prior to the 1998 that brought Robin to our San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC), we were a small event at the La Jolla Cove… we attracted about 250 athletes… we would introduce our 20 or so challenges athletes and off everyone went… and we would wait until the end of the day for them to come back to have our awards barbecue. Back in the day, we were all volunteers. This was an easy job. But that year… 1998… That year changed everything.

Virginia Tinley, CAF’s Executive Director, had informed me Robin was coming to SDTC and asked me to be his liaison for the day. Why would I reject that job! His “people” gave me very simple instructions. “You cannot promote his appearance, you will need to see if he is “in the mood” to talk to media before his ride, after his ride I’m sure he will talk to all.” Okay, sounds simple… event day came, the crowd saw Robin… the crowd went crazy… all of a sudden, this “A” list celebrity was taking the time from his life to come to this tiny event at the La Jolla Cove to see what was happening.

As I went in to “Over drive” to shield him from the crowds he did the opposite. He went to the crowds, jumped on laps, dove into Improv, learned athletes names, listened to their stories… over the years I learned the “Look”, that look that said “this is okay”. This is what I want to be doing right now. Eventually I learned when he needed a break and when he wanted more. Most often, he wanted more. He looked forward to these faces, to athletes he would see every year. He remembered them, and wanted to hear the updates. He always said, “This is like coming home to family. Like a reunion.”

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He especially loved the energy he got from the athletes, their excitement of being there and the attention he bestowed on them. The thing that resonates the most is he never wanted anything in return. In fact he did not want us to actively promote his appearance. He had no agenda… I think for him it was the best of both worlds. He loved the fantasy camp idea of riding with his heroes’… Scott Tinley, Wendy Ingrahm and so many more. And then hanging with his other heroes, such as our athletes in Operation Rebound. Through Robin’s annual trek to the San Diego Triathlon other Celeb’s wanted to check it out.

The year was 2003… just Before Will Ferrell did Elf. Their trainer, Gary Kobat, brought Will, Jim Carrey and David James Elliot to the event. Now mind you, at this point Robin and I had a routine… but add three more “A listers” in that recipe and things became a bit chaotic! I will never forget Robin’s attorney, Jerry Margolis, look at me at the end of the day and say “Tabi, I think you’re one celebrity short of a nervous breakdown”. He was so right….

In the end, it was Robin’s genuine loyalty that put a stamp of credibility on CAF. Before he came, people really didn’t know what we were doing… he let others know that it was important. That riding a bike at any ability was important. Being able to get outside and be great was important. And every person regardless of their ability deserved that right. The word’s that will forever ring in my head are very simple… at the end of each day, each year, I always said the same thing… “Thank you Robin for being here, it means so much to our athletes,” his response, “No it is I who thank you. It means more to me than it does to them”.

Thank you Robin. You will always be our very dear friend. You will always be our greatest gift.

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