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Challenged Athletes Foundation announces 25th Anniversary Celebration - $100 Million raised, 23,000 individual grants and thousands more lives transformed by sport

July 31, 2018

San Diego, CA, July 31, 2018 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Challenged Athletes Foundation® (CAF) kicked off a celebration to mark its 25th year of providing people with physical challenges access to sports and an active lifestyle. As part of its 25th Anniversary, CAF is announcing the achievement of $100 Million raised and 23,000 individual grants provided to people with physical challenges in the form of special adaptive sports equipment, training and competition expenses. “We started 25 years ago with a humble vision to help one injured friend, Jim MacLaren,” shared Virginia Tinley, Chief Executive Director. “With the passion and dedication of supporters and Challenged Athletes, we started a movement where Challenged Athletes have changed perception and taught us what we can overcome with strength, perseverance and community support.”

Changes Over Twenty-Five Years In 1994, one grant was given for an adaptive van to help Jim MacLaren regain his independence. Since then, CAF has sent out 23,000 grants to individuals with physical disabilities from around the world across 95 different sports including wheelchair basketball, cycling, CrossFit, surfing and WCMX. Due in part to CAF’s commitment to develop more Challenged Athletes, adaptive sports equipment and specialized prosthetics have evolved considerably over time. This year, CAF awarded 90 grants for running feet provided by global prosthetics partner, Össur. In addition, CAF partners with equipment manufacturers like Top End Wheelchairs, Box Wheelchairs and Vesco Wheelchairs to ensure athletes have access to the right equipment that meets their personal needs. When CAF began, young people with physical challenges lacked mentors and role models to show them what was possible. Now, hundreds of mentor/mentee pairs have been created through CAF events and programs. Three challenged athlete participated in CAF’s San Diego Triathlon Challenge. This year, over 200 challenged athletes and their families will participate in the weekend of events. In 1994, 471 athletes competed in the Paralympic games. In the most recent Summer Paralympic games, over 4,350 athletes competed. In the 2018 Winter Paralympic Games, in PyeongChang, 51 % of Team USA was supported by CAF.

25th Anniversary Celebration CAF’s 25th Anniversary kicks off today with a Proclamation by the City of San Diego honoring 25 years of impact around the world. Following the Proclamation, there will be a panel discussion at the Deni + Jeff Jacobs Challenged Athletes Center with original contributors:

-- Jeffrey Essakow, Bob Babbitt and Rick Kozlowski - Co-Founders and Board Members -- Tabi King – Board Member, Director of Marketing at Össur, 25 years of support -- Virginia Tinley - Chief Executive Director, 25 years of support -- Carlos Moleda – Challenged Athlete, 5 Time IRONMAN® World Champion, Handcycling Division -- Jamie Goldman-Marseilles - Challenged Athlete, Gold Medal Paralympian, first female double below-knee amputee to complete the Boston Marathon

The 25th celebration will also come to life across all of CAF’s programs and activities taking place throughout the year. CAF has launched all new fundraising opportunities for those wishing to get involved with CAF in a deeper way. CAF recently launched the program: “Fundraise Your Way” to encourage individuals to start their own fundraisers and provide all the tools to do so. The program can be found at www.challengedathletes.org/fundraise and includes fundraising examples and digital tools for people looking to support the organization. The celebration’s integrated marketing campaign also kicks off this week with the theme “Thanks to CAF,” intended to share the history and testimonials from Challenged Athletes and supporters of the positive impact CAF has had on their lives and to introduce new audiences to the foundation via digital, out of home, social media and print advertising vehicles.

The 25th anniversary celebration will also include an all new route, additional days and new programming features on the Million Dollar Challenge Cycling Ride from San Francisco to San Diego Oct. 13-21. This year, the ride will be joined by Mayor Kevin Faulconer and former Chief of Police Shelley Zimmerman who have started their own fundraising efforts as “Team Made in San Diego.”

The 25th anniversary celebration also features enhancements to the Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon Challenge, CAF’s hallmark fundraising weekend in La Jolla, CA. The weekend will include the annual Celebration of Abilities Awards Dinner, adaptive sports clinics, an enhanced Parade of Athletes opening ceremony and the new additions of the 5 Mile Run and Kaiser Permanente Thrive Yoga by the Sea. Also new this year is a Virtual Participant option for those who can’t make it to La Jolla Cove on October 21. To register for the event, visit www.challengedathletes.org/sdtc. The event will also be broadcast live at www.caflive.com, on Facebook and through Triathlete Magazine online. The celebration will culminate in the spring of 2019 with the second annual Celebration of Will fundraising gala in San Diego with the mission to support CAF’s vision for the future. To learn more about CAF’s history, what has changed in 25 years, iconic athlete stories and how to get involved with the 25th Anniversary Celebration, visit www.challengedathletes.org/25years

Featured Athletes

Sarah Reinertsen

Sport: Triathlon, running

Legacy: Sarah was the first female amputee to complete IRONMAN World Championships in Kona.

Bio: A former Paralympic Track Athlete and first amputee woman to complete Ironman Kona, Sarah Reinertsen, has served as motivation for countless athletes by demonstrating what she could accomplish in spite of being born with a bone growth disorder. Sarah has won accolades for the USOC and ESPN Best Female Athlete with a Disability (in 1991 and 2006 respectively), as well as been named USAT Best Physically Challenged Triathlete of the Year in 2006. Sarah has also been featured on the cover of Runner’s World among numerous other publications, including ESPN’s The Body Issue. Her most recent accomplishment includes running 7 half-marathons in 7 days on 7 continents. She has her sights set on IRONMAN Kona World Championships again in October 2018

Quote: “I’m so thankful to CAF for giving me the opportunity to be a mentor, role model and coach to so many other challenged athletes. While I’m proud of my own victories as an athlete, I’m even more proud to have helped others become champions of sport and blaze their own trails forward.”

Carlos Moleda

Sport: Triathlon, handcycling

Legacy: Carlos won the 367-mile Sadlers Ultra Challenge handcycle race in Alaska, is a two-time National Handcycling Champion and a five-time Hawaii Ironman Champion.

Bio: Carlos Moleda grew up in São Paulo, Brazil. At age 18, he chose a life of adventure, moved to the United States, and joined the Navy. While serving as a Navy SEAL, a firefight in Panama resulted in the paralysis of his lower body. Competitive sports proved to be the best way to recover from this traumatic injury. Since his injury, Carlos has become a world-renowned athlete. He won the 367-mile Sadlers Ultra Challenge handcycle race in Alaska, is a two-time National Handcycling Champion and a five-time Hawaii Ironman Champion. Carlos serves as a spokesman for the Challenged Athletes Foundation and coach for paratriathlon.

Quote: “CAF has given me the resources and support to be able to achieve just about everything I have achieved as a Challenged Athlete. Their generous support and trust have enabled me to live an exceptional life. Because of that, the ripple effect of everything I’ve accomplished have inspired many others to do the same.”

Scout Bassett

Sport: Track and field

Legacy: First female in her classification to win a global medal at Track and Field World Championships for her country.

Bio: Scout was found by a Chinese orphanage after a fire took her right leg, leaving her an above knee amputee. At the age of seven, she was adopted and brought to the United States. Scout’s prosthetist encouraged her to go to an adaptive track meet, where she learned about CAF. Scout won CAF’s 2016 Most Inspirational Athlete award and serves as a mentor for youth. She is a Nike running athlete, Paralympian, and speaker.

After her first grant for a running leg, Scout started running seriously. She eventually qualified for her first World Championships in 2013 and eventually the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games. Scout won her first medal in international competition in 2017 during World Championships in London.

Quote: “Patience. Commitment. Dedication. Self-confidence. How to chase hard work. How to rise above failure and defeat. For this and so much more, running has forever changed my life. Running is the foundation for all the work that I do. It feeds the hunger, creativity and passion needed in my pursuits and directly connects me to the cause that is my life-calling.”

Willie Stewart

Sport: Cycling, triathlon

Legacy: First challenged athlete to complete Leadman.

Bio: In 1980, a construction accident resulted in the loss of Willie’s arm.

Willie’s sport resume includes winning the Catalina Marathon overall, completing the Ironman and Xterra world championships, and a Paralympic medal in cross country skiing. Willie is also a 15-time Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon finisher and current course record holder, two-time finisher of the grueling HURT 100 mile run in Honolulu, Hawaii, and most recently completed the Leadville Trail 100.

In 2017, Willie became the first challenged athlete to complete the Leadman Challenge.

Quote: “We all struggle some days. We all crave to be inspired. Over the past 25 years, CAF has given me a daily dose of inspiration, the strength I need to believe in myself, and the courage I sometimes lack to take on bigger challenges. 25 years ago, we could not see these great athletes as there was no platform. 25 years ago, society missed the opportunity to be inspired. Not today.”

Rudy Garcia Tolson

Sport: Swimming, paratriathlon

Legacy: At age 15, Rudy won his first Paralympic gold medal in swimming. Rudy has been to every summer Paralympic Games since 2004 and medaled at all four games.

Bio: Due to a rare birth defect, Rudy elected to amputate both legs above the knee at the age of five for a chance to have greater mobility. Rudy immediately began swimming and running and at age 15, he won his first Gold medal in the Paralympic Games as a swimmer.

Rudy has been to every summer Paralympic Games since 2004 and medaled at all four games. He is a spokesperson for CAF and mentors younger athletes who are joining the world of adaptive swim.

Breezy Bochenek

Sport: Triathlon, CrossFit, Surfing

Legacy: Breezy hopes to complete an IRONMAN when she turns 18

Bio: At ten years old, Breezy was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer on her left thigh and would need to amputate her leg above the knee to save her life. Breezy was given hope after meeting CAF spokesperson and amputee athlete, Sarah Reinertsen. “She was the first woman with a prosthetic to complete a full Ironman; maybe I’ll be the youngest.” Breezy has competed in several triathlons, including the Wildflower triathlon as well as the San Diego Triathlon Challenge. Breezy trains doing CrossFit 3-4 times a week and is preparing to enter and finish her first Ironman Triathlon when she is 18.

Breezy has also attended CAF’s Junior Seau Foundation Youth Adaptive Surf camp as well as multiple clinics.

About the Challenged Athletes Foundation

The Challenged Athletes Foundation® (CAF) is a world leader in helping people with physical challenges lead active, healthy lifestyles. CAF believes that participation in physical activity at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life. Since 1994, more than $100 million has been raised and over 23,000 individual grants awarded to people with physical challenges in all 50 states and dozens of countries around the world. Additionally, CAF’s outreach efforts reach another 100,000 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 lifestyle. To learn more, visit challengedathletes.org or call 858-866-0959.

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Laura Stein Challenged Athletes Foundation 858.210.3507 laura@challengedathletesfoundation.com

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