Every athlete starts with day one. Day one can be hard, full of resistance and daunting. But after day one comes day two, and then day 10, and then a whole year of physical fitness that can translate into life-long habits of health and success.

Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) and select YMCAs around the country are giving people with physical challenges the opportunity to have a day one.

The YMCA of San Diego County’s Hero Impact
Locally, CAF and the YMCA of San Diego County are leading the way in a role-model partnership. By providing access to the YMCA’s extensive programs to support people with permanent physical challenges and their families, both missions are fulfilled in a tangible way. The YMCA of San Diego County is providing the framework for other branches around the country to follow in their life-changing partnership with CAF.

Granting Health
CAF’s Access for Athletes program provides grants for adaptive sports equipment, training and competition expenses to people with physical challenges around the world. As an integral part this grant program, the YMCA of San Diego County provides free memberships to challenged athletes so they can train in a supportive environment with the latest equipment. This year, the YMCA provided 455 annual membership grants to people in San Diego, Philadelphia, Boulder Valley, and Dallas/Arlington/Fort Worth.

“The Y has a therapy pool and I have found that the warm water has been so comforting on my arthritic and weak, paralyzed body. Being in the water is PRICELESS relief from my wheelchair and a FABULOUS addition to getting cardio by handcycling. Of course, exercise is the “magic” medicine to helping with my health (weight, cardio, strength) and for that, I am so thankful.” YMCA of San Diego County Member

“Wheelchair rugby has not only gifted me the experience to be a Paralympian, but has also opened the door to discovering a multitude of adaptive sports which helped me regain my identity. After being selected as an alternate to Team USA in 2014, I made the decision to move from New York to San Diego to play for a Division I team and elite coaches in order to maximize my chances to make the 2016 Paralympic Team. It was here that I was connected to the YMCA. After all, I needed somewhere to train! I put hundreds of hours into the Rancho Family YMCA in order to maximize my physical ability. I am more than pleased to say the results paid off personally, as I was a major player on a starting line-up in Rio. I am even more thrilled to announce that the YMCA’s support of me as an athlete helped me better support our entire team as we finished with a silver medal. I’m focused on 2020 now. You can count on me to continue training at the YMCA as I prepare to do my part in helping my team bring home the gold! “ – Lee Fredette, YMCA of San Diego County Member

 

CAF & YMCA’s Around the Country
CAF and various YMCAs around the country are partnering together to help create a culture of inclusion. With a shared commitment to transforming lives through sports, developing youth, strengthening communities, and being socially responsible, the YMCA and CAF are together creating a culture where all feel welcome and have access to a supportive fitness and community environment.

With able-bodied and challenged athletes training side by side, stereotypes are broken down and replaced with a strong community of support and connection.

“Yesterday was my first day at the gym and I walked two miles. Yes, it took an hour, but I did it. I felt extremely supported by the YMCA members and staff. My goal is to be physically fit and to work toward getting running legs so I can eventually run. The CAF & Ossur Philadelphia running clinic inspired me to know that I can do this. Life as a bilateral above the knee amputee is not easy, but I know things are possible now. Yesterday was day one.  I’m ready for this journey though. The YMCA environment is unlike any other gym I’ve been to. The staff are accepting, helpful and motivating. That means a lot for someone like myself. I am so excited for what’s ahead. Thanks CAF & YMCA!” – Philadelphia YMCA Member

 

Making the Connection
Bill Walton, CAF spokesperson and supporter, is also a huge YMCA supporter and member, often found in the pool by 7am at the Mission Valley YMCA in San Diego County. Bill is an icon in the sports world and also in the lives of many people with physical challenges whom he has introduced to CAF.

In late 2016, Mackenzie “Mack” Johnson was a sophomore in college and had a life-changing accident that paralyzed him from the waist down. New to his wheelchair, Mack was with his mom and uncle in Arizona when he serendipitously met Bill Walton at a rest stop.  Bill immediately connected Mack with CAF who granted him a new wheelchair basketball chair a few months later.  After attending his first basketball camp in July at Auburn University, Mack decided to transfer colleges starting this Fall to be on the Auburn Wheelchair Basketball Team.

CAF and the YMCA have been a part of Mack’s journey from the beginning, helping him change his life for the better through adaptive sports.  Mack spent time in San Diego working on his chair skills and learning more about adaptive sports, including two weeks of training at the YMCA in Mission Valley.

 

Get Involved in the Movement
On October 22, 2017, the YMCA of San Diego County is bringing the gym to La Jolla Cove at this year’s YMCA of San Diego County “Tiki” Tour de Cove. Able-bodied and challenged athletes alike will “Clip into Paradise” during the 4.5-hour stationary cycling marathon overlooking La Jolla’s breathtaking ocean views.

Together, CAF and the YMCA are helping people with physical challenges train for success in their sport, and in life, starting with day one.

 

To make a donation in honor of a challenged athlete you train with, donate here: challengedathletes.org/donate/

To learn more about CAF’s grant program, visit here:
challengedathletes.org/programs/grants/

To register for the 2017 YMCA of San Diego County “Tiki” Tour de Cove, visit:
challengedathletes.org/TDC