Alex Henry arrived at La Jolla Cove on October 18, 2015, eyes wide with possibility.  The bandana she wore over her head and the crutches used for her newly amputated leg were signs of her fight during the last year. Alex had been granted travel expenses to attend the Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) benefitting the Challenged Athletes Foundation’s (CAF) from her home town of Sacramento. She immediately connected with three like-minded teenage girls; two of whom knew the ins and out of her journey because they also stood at the frightening starting line of an Osteosarcoma diagnosis and became single-leg amputees just like Alex.

Alongside the hundreds of other people with physical challenges by her side at SDTC, Alex quickly discovered that sports and physical fitness was her ticket to a life of confidence, connection, fulfillment and success in life.

“SDTC was Life Changing. SDTC showed Alex that she has no limits. Alex was 5 days out of chemo when she was experienced SDTC. From that day forward, she has never looked back! She never questioned her disability and honestly has never thought she was “less than” compared to other kids. SDTC showed her “I still can!” SDTC saved her life!” shared Doug Henry, Alex’s father.

Sports and fitness are at the heart of our society’s culture and values, but there’s a segment that’s often left on the sidelines. Major barriers of entry to an active lifestyle for people with physical challenges include limited access, lack of insurance coverage, expensive cost of adaptive equipment and little recognition in the sports world.

CAF is on a mission to provide opportunities and support to people with physical challenges, so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. CAF provides grants for equipment, travel, coaching and competition expenses, as well as facilitates camps, clinics and transformational fundraising events around the country that bring together challenged athletes and able-bodied athletes in an inclusive environment.

Since 1994, more than $80 million has been raised and over 18,000 funding requests from people with physical challenges in all 50 states and dozens of countries have been satisfied.  In 2017 alone, CAF distributed $3.7 million in grants to 2,448 people with physical disabilities. An additional 60,000 people are impacted annually through CAF’s clinics and outreach.

CAF provides support throughout an entire athlete’s journey, at any level, any age, and every step of the way. Whether it’s a $2,500 grant for a handcycle, funds to compete at a local track meet or arranging enthusiastic encouragement from a mentor, CAF gives every opportunity to those who want to live a physically active lifestyle.

By continuing to fulfill our mission year after year, CAF is creating a world of inclusion through sports.

October 22, 2017 marks the 24th annual SDTC; the flagship event that embodies CAF’s life-changing work. It’s an event that transcends far beyond a medal or a finish line and forever impacts the lives of donors, challenged athletes, volunteers and sponsors involved.

The challenge distance triathlon – 1-mile swim, 44-mile bike and 10-mile run – is just one element during the empowering weekend of activities including surf, running and swim clinics, a kids run, stationary cycling marathon and more. Able-bodied and challenged athletes compete together on an even playing field, changing perceptions about what’s possible.

“One of my favorite things about SDTC is seeing the kids go from being ‘the person with a disability’ to being just another kid who loves being active! They have the freedom to be exactly who they are because of the opportunities that CAF provides.” – Travis Ricks, Sr. Programs Manager & Athlete Relations at CAF.

SDTC is inclusion in action.

Thanks to CAF and the community of support, Alex Henry is now thriving and focusing on being a teenage girl; horseback riding, swimming, running and attending other CAF clinics.

To participate in a SDTC or honor athletes like Alex with a donation, visit: challengedathletes.org