Achilles is an organization that through sports practice gives people the possibility of improving their quality of life. The performance of group sports fosters friendship, love and respect. In my case, it has allowed me to create a group of friends who not only meet for physical activity but to share experiences and help us.
Thank you Achilles for existing.
My first year with Achilles Kids was a huge success, but it was a struggle to get there first. As was the case in years past, the students resisted the change from the regular routine and did not want to run and participate in the program. However, I started to run with them and told them about the different prizes from Achilles Kids that they would receive if they reached their goals. First, the certificates came in the mail and for many of these students, this would be the first award they had ever received! Soon, there was no more complaining and it was replaced with a motivation that I was so excited to see. They started striving to go a little further every time they came into the gym. Not only did they start to get moving, but they motivated me to start to run again and I started to go after my personal goal of running a marathon.
There was a third-grade boy name James and every day, he would come to the gym and do his walking for Achilles Kids. James was a heavy-weight boy who is slightly autistic and he rarely spoke to anyone. However, through his one-on-one paraprofessional, he told her that he wanted to run instead of walk around the gym to make his goal of one mile without stopping. Every week, he would walk less and run more. On the second week, he came up to me and said, “Watch me, Mr. Dyer!” His running said it all, he did not stop after a mile but kept going about two miles. The smile on his face when he finished made it all worth it. At the end of year one, thirty-four of the thirty-six students had reached their goal of getting a free pair running sneakers. And, by the way, yes, I did run my marathon in May!
The second year with Achilles Kids was a very special one for me. First, I enrolled all my 12:1 classes in the program and immediately, I had the classes off and running from day one. The kids were ready and eager to start running and many reached their goals. I started promoting the Achilles Kids program to other schools in Brooklyn through my PE Professional Learning Committee. I had Karen Lewis (Director of Achilles Kids) visit so she could speak to the other physical education teachers. She did a question and answer session and we signed them up for the program for the upcoming school year. We signed up twenty new schools for the program.
For my school, my students kept on running and I did the same. However, I had to take a step back due to an injury but my students kept encouraging me, “Mr. Dyer, you can always walk, remember no excuses!” Well, I did not stop and I did my walking while they ran. During my injury, I always just kept remembering James’ courage to run and meet his goals. If he can run two miles without stopping I can keep moving during my injury! Last school year, I was awarded a plaque from Karen for my hard work and dedication to Achilles Kids.
Currently, this is my third year with Achilles Kids and my students are off and running again. Yes, my students have me running alongside them again pushing me every step of the way. It is a great feeling to see my students so excited about running and wanting to come to gym week after week. Richard Petracca and I are teaming with school in Virginia to start something big and looking forward to this new challenge for my students and myself.
Achilles Kids is the best thing that is ever happened to my school for students. It gave the huge boost in their self-confidence and believe anything is possible if they just try. My students' parents have come up to me and thanked about how much this program has changed their child's life.
I teach children with various disabilities. The one thing they all have in common is that they all love to move. Movement is their outlet. As a teacher you are always looking for a program that will suit the needs of your students. About 22 years ago I attended a running workshop designed for children with special needs. Karen Lewis was giving the workshop and she completely blew me away with her enthusiasm and passion for the Achilles Kids Program. I signed up that day! The program has grown over the years, improving every step of the way. They are always trying to find ways to help and motivate the children; from t-shirts, maps, bracelets, certificates, medals and of course the sneakers!!
The Achilles Program is about the students ... ABILITIES... not their Disabilities. All my students will finish a 26 mile marathon during the school year and some will come close to finishing 2 marathons! My students are very aware of their goal ... 26 miles ... and maybe a pair of new sneakers!
I never truly understood the impact of the new sneakers until one of my students named "David" informed me that this was the first pair of new sneakers that he had ever received. He always had to wear his older brothers worn down and used sneakers. Then I became more aware of the sneakers that my students wore; many of their shoes had holes, were too small, or the soles were completely worn away. For those children, the sneakers have an even greater meaning to them. The sneakers represent triumph and something that is truly their own.
It’s through the generosity of others that my students are able to be so successful. The sneakers impact their everyday lives, they wear them every day at school and they are a constant reminder that they are able to do whatever they put their minds to. Because of the Achilles Kids Program my students have been able to accomplish more than they have ever dreamed of.
Achilles was introduced to me about 12 years ago, and I immediately fell in love with the REAL PROGRAM it provides for all people with disabilities, to participate in mainstream marathons all around the country! The Achilles FREEDOM TEAM of Wounded Veterans focuses specifically on our men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, and allows them to set a goal, and train to compete in a marathon not up on a pedestal, yet in their wheelchairs on the course with everyone else. Focusing on their strength and endurance, they ACHIEVE what most Americans don't even dare try ... 26.2 miles. I've run 10 marathons myself, and knowing that amazing sense of accomplishment, that you can do so much more ... is what is being offered by Achilles. Incredible program, great sense of "family" and support - it's become a major focus of my life, because I believe in what is being done, without huge amounts of money being spent on administrative paperwork and excess staff. BRAVO ACHILLES!!!
We at Air Compassion for Veterans have worked with Achilles International now for two months. We have been providing free flights for wounded warriors and their adversely affected family members so they can participate in the wonderful events Achilles offers. For a wounded warrior to compete in these events, renews a sense of accomplishment and being able to overcome the handicap that their injury produced. This is a wonderful organization.
Achilles Freedom Team of Wounded Soldiers has transformed people whose lives have been torn apart by war and who have had the courage to stand up when America called for defense of its borders. The commitment of the organization to the wounded servicemen and women is simply amazing for giving back the lives to these men and women injured serving in our nation's Armed Services.
Achilles is a wonderful organization that truly has the power to change lives. It helps people be active and achieve.