The Heart of CAF: Celebrating Our Incredible Volunteers

CAF is a world leader in the adaptive sports movement and has supported thousands of athletes with physical disabilities, empowering their lives through sport. Whether an individual has volunteered once or hundreds of times over the past 30 years, their generosity has made a difference. We simply could not fulfill our mission without the help of our volunteers. 

The Many Hats of a CAF Volunteer

Direct Service: They might be coaching youth sports programs, passing out medals at the finish line, or helping an athlete on their journey into sports.

Event Support: From setting up and tearing down to registration and logistics, volunteers ensure events run smoothly.

Administrative Support: Here at CAF, some volunteers dedicate time to coming into the office, manning the front desk, and answering calls.

Professional Expertise: Coaches can be tremendously helpful to nonprofits in the realm of volunteering by providing a unique set of skills and perspectives.

The Impact of Volunteering

Increased Capacity: Volunteers multiply the reach and impact of nonprofits. They allow organizations to offer more services and programs with limited resources.

Fresh Perspectives: Our volunteers bring new ideas and skills to the table, fostering innovation and growth.

Community Building: Our volunteers connect people to their communities and foster a sense of shared purpose.

Empowerment and Support: Volunteers provide companionship, guidance, and practical assistance to those facing difficult situations. This can empower individuals and improve their quality of life.

    Today, we celebrate five extraordinary individuals whose stories showcase the incredible influence of volunteers.

    These exceptional volunteers bring diverse skills and unwavering dedication to CAF, each contributing uniquely to our cause. These remarkable individuals experienced firsthand the life-changing impact of sports and continue to spread the CAF mission.

    Challenged Athletes Foundation Volunteer: Devon Roeper

    Devon Roeper, leveraging her background in economics and political science alongside extensive experience in healthcare marketing, combines her passion for wellness with her expertise in communication and implementation strategy to enhance how healthcare brands connect with providers at Saatchi & Saatchi Wellness.

    Operation Rebound Group Photo

    Growing up in San Diego, California, but living in New York for over 10 years, she remains engaged in sports and outdoor activities, often found in Central Park on weekends. Devon’s involvement with CAF began through her father, Dean Roeper, who got involved through the Million Dollar Challenge, CAF’s 620-mile cycling event down the California Coast. 

    She has been an active volunteer in the northeast region for almost 4 years on the Junior Committee and has been involved with CAF since she was 12, volunteering at Community Challenge Events and clinics. Devon planned and ran the New York Marathon twice as part of Team CAF supporting CAF’s mission.

    “As a lifelong athlete, movement, and engagement in sports alongside a community are incredibly important to who I am. CAF’s mission resonates with me deeply because I believe everyone should have the chance and ability to experience sport and the community it provides. The high costs of adaptive equipment shouldn’t hinder anyone from being active and experiencing life in motion with sport. It’s a cause that everyone can rally behind, and I’m committed to continuing the incredible legacy of CAF.”

    Challenged Athletes Foundation Volunteer: Natalie Kim

    Natalie’s journey is one fueled by passion—for sports, photography, and community. Raised in Sonoma County and now residing in Marin County with her husband and two children, Natalie’s life has been shaped by her love for movement and capturing moments through the lens. From her days as a competitive gymnast to her current role as a dedicated sports and fitness photographer, Natalie’s commitment to staying active and engaged shines through in everything she does.

    Operation Rebound Group Photo

    Natalie’s introduction to CAF came through a serendipitous encounter at the Celebration of Heart Gala.

    Inspired by the remarkable athletes she met that day, Natalie felt compelled to contribute her talents to the CAF community.

    Offering her services as a volunteer photographer, Natalie found a meaningful way to showcase the strength and resilience of CAF athletes through her lens.

    Volunteering with CAF has gifted Natalie with countless memorable experiences, but one moment stands out vividly. During an adaptive swimming clinic, Natalie had the privilege of meeting a young woman and her mother. As they shared their journey, Natalie was deeply moved by the young woman’s passion for artistic swimming and her dedication to advocating for other adaptive swimmers. Their story encapsulated the spirit of resilience and paying it forward that defines the CAF community.

    Natalie’s dedication to using her photography to shine a light on the strength and resilience of CAF athletes embodies the spirit of volunteerism at the heart of the organization.

    Her contributions not only capture moments but also inspire others to see the potential within every individual, regardless of ability.

    “Engaging with the CAF community has been a source of inspiration, filled with impressive conversations and heartwarming connections.”

    Challenged Athletes Foundation Volunteer: Lloyd Kristof

    Residing in Danville, California, Lloyd Kristof is a devoted husband, father of two daughters, and a skilled finish carpenter. When he’s not perfecting his craft, Lloyd finds solace on the ice, where he indulges his passion for ice hockey. Family and sports intertwine in his life, driving his commitment to make a difference in the community.

    Operation Rebound Group Photo

    Lloyd’s journey with CAF began through his daughter, Eva Kristof, who serves as the Programs Manager for CAF NorCal. Inspired by Eva’s dedication, Lloyd eagerly immersed himself in CAF’s mission, becoming an integral part of their local camps and clinics. Having participated in numerous NorCal clinics over the past two years, Lloyd recounts the consistent joy and excitement radiating from participants.

    Witnessing families, guardians, and friends beam with pride as their loved ones engage in CAF activities remains etched in his memory.

    The atmosphere and energy of CAF clinics is lively and dynamic,” says Lloyd. “As a volunteer, I help make sure the little details are handled, from clinic set-up and break-down to ensuring all the equipment is transported, hauled, and repaired.”

    Lloyd’s dedication exemplifies the spirit of volunteerism at the heart of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, enriching the lives of athletes and communities alike.

    Challenged Athletes Foundation Volunteer:  Christine Panagos

    Christine Panagos is a physical therapist with a lifelong love of athletics. After 33 years in the field, Chris decided to expand her experience with athletes with disabilities by volunteering with the CAF cycling club four years ago. This passion led Chris to become more than just a volunteer cyclist. She is now a fixture in the CAF community and a valuable asset to the organization.

    Operation Rebound Group Photo

    “When we are out riding, we are all the same. We are all laughing, enjoying our time together, and share a love for being on bikes.”

    “We are a team, and this cycling group is my community. I am blown away by their abilities, their grit, the sense of teamwork and support that exists in our group.”

    Chris describes a particularly memorable moment volunteering with CAF, “I believe it was Jet Turner (who I refer to as Obi-wan, because he is “The Master”) who suggested we end our season with a ride to the summit of Lucky Peak. Seven of us set out on a perfect day. We were all tired when one of our athletes exhausted the battery power on his bike. We took turns pushing him uphill with our already spent legs. 

    The only thing separating us from the top was a vehicle barrier gate with no way around. Pat Dougherty was having nothing to do with turning around. He rode his bike right up to the gate and waited for the four volunteer riders to lift him up and over. First Pat, then Jet, then Justin. We did it!!! We ALL did it! We made it to the summit and enjoyed an amazing, lengthy descent. Just when we let our guard down, we realized we needed to tow our athletes back to our vehicles. Thank goodness Patrick carries tow straps. Amazing, and unforgettable day.”

    Chris’s story exemplifies the dedication and camaraderie that is fostered through CAF’s volunteer programs.

    Challenged Athletes Foundation Volunteer: Taylor Zografakis

    Taylor J. Zografakis is a Senior Analyst at Numerus Partners (Millennium), where he manages a portfolio for a relative value fundamental equities strategy across Capital Markets and Business Services. Taylor graduated summa cum laude from Boston College’s Carroll School of Management with a B.S. in Management and specializations in Finance and Accounting Information Systems.

    Taylor is heavily involved in the non-profit space, as he endeavors to live up to his alma mater’s mission: men and women for others. Taylor is most passionate about diversity and inclusion, financial literacy and mental/physical wellness.

    Operation Rebound Group Photo

    In 2019, Taylor attended the CAF NYC Gala by sheer luck after a canceled event led him there.“My girlfriend, Jessica Tomkiewicz, invited me to the Gala in support of her boss Scott Stackman, who founded the event and is a key part of the organization.

    The experience was something out of a movie – a stupendous cocktail hour followed by many stories of hardship, triumph and the pursuit of excellence, regardless of circumstance.”

    Taylor saw an opportunity to create a platform for young professionals in NYC to support CAF’s mission, thus the Junior Committee was born, aiming to spread the movement and impact of CAF in the NYC region.

    Taylor serves as Chairman Emeritus, contributing to the organization’s growth and impact. He has also dedicated his time to volunteering at CAF programs and galas, gaining a firsthand understanding of CAF’s mission and the transformative power of sports.

    “Meeting athletes such as Rudy-Garcia-Tolson, Sarah Reinertsen, and many more,  is my favorite part of CAF. I’m constantly moved by their positive attitude, relentless spirit, and extreme gratitude” CAF’s mission serves as a reminder to Taylor that with the right support and community, there are no limits to what individuals can achieve.

    Looking to Get Involved?

    There’s a volunteer opportunity out there for everyone, regardless of your age, skills, or availability.

    Remember, even a few hours of your time can make a world of difference. So, lace up your volunteering shoes and join the movement making a positive impact on the lives of individuals with physical disabilities!