My husband was injured in December of 2012. He went from being a Hospital Administrator For the Coast Guard with a very active life to the confines of a wheelchair as a paraplegic. My husband was an athlete before his injury and now found himself retired from a career he loved and unable to do the sports and hobbies he once enjoyed. Or so he thought. About a year into his injury the VA introduced him to the Achilles Organization. This organization has changed OUR life. He was given many opportunities to try snow skiing, wheelchair basketball, archery, and sailing. None of those fit him. From the moment he starting hand cycling and racing in marathons his overall health and well being sky rocketed. His former athleticism came back with a force and he came alive. This was all due to his hard work, determination and Achilles. They have afforded him and our family opportunities and memories that are irreplaceable. We have both met athletes that have been an inspiration to us and that have motivated our family on a fundamental level. Janet Patton and Jo Traum are a dynamic duo that makes every experience seem flawless, while eliminating barriers for the athletes. They make an amazing team ALWAYS sporting upbeat smiles and unbeatable positive attitudes. One of the other ways Achilles has changed our life is witnessing selflessness, kindness, and compassion on a level we would have not seen otherwise. The volunteer community had amazed us! We now volunteer in our own community and give back any way we can. Our family has become aware of ways we can help others in our community the way Achilles helps us. We may have only stayed aware of our immediate family instead of our human family as a whole. Volenteering has become a huge part of our life. Achilles has been instrumental in my husband’s strides in becoming a better athlete and competitor with each race he is a part of. We are so very proud to be part of the Achilles family and so grateful for all the amazing opportunities Achilles provides for men, women, and children with disabilities. We have met lifelong friends and every Achilles event fills our hearts. My Children thank Achilles! My husband and I thank Achilles!!!!!
I was an avid runner for over a decade. When my mom had passed, I was determined to volunteer in her honor to help others as she always gave so much of herself. One day while running in Central Park, I noticed a large group in bright yellow shirts that was having a great time. This group was from Achilles International. Achilles International is dedicated to assisting mentally and physically disabled athletes with physical fitness and attain self fufillment by pairing disabled runners with able bodied guides.
The more I researched this group, the more I knew I wanted to get involved. So I emailed the NYC Chapter Director and was invited to participate in their Central Park workouts which are held twice weekly. I was nervous at first about fitting in and how I would be greeted but it was like making an instant connection the second I arrived. I was paired with a Visually Impaired runner and we proceeded to run a 6 mile lap of Central Park.
This one workout eventually led to my participation in hundreds of more workouts over the years with them as well as guiding dozens of races. I've guided and made life long friends with people with disabilities ranging from Blindness, Cerebral Palsy, Amputees, Autism, etc. After more than a decade of running and chasing after goal times, I've never felt more fufilled and complete in my running life as now when I am helping others achieve their running and fitness goals. I've guided a young blind woman who was new to New York and never even ran a day in her life. A few months later, I guided her in her first ever race at the NYC Half Marathon. I also guided a middle aged runner who for her first 49 years on this earth was the epitome of health. Then last year, she wound up having detached retinas in both of her eyes. Instead of feeling sorry for herself, she instead reinvented herself and with the help of Achilles, was back up and running. This past November, I had the pleasure of guiding her in her ultimate comeback, the NYC Marathon.
What I've learned that in giving is when we receive because the joy and satisfaction in knowing that you have made a positive difference in someone else's life as well as your community is very gratifying. To witness disabled people achieve goals they never thought possible is heart warming. To have them thank you and know that I played at least a small part in their happiness and achievements is quite humbling. The joy I get from running is now not because of reaching a time goal but from the infectious smiles and camaraderie of those who have a new found identity through running. I see this as a race of giving with a start but no finish line and for that I will always be grateful.
Review from #MyGivingStory