A Celebration of Will Gala Surpasses Expectations, raising $6.7 Million for Athletes with Physical Disabilities

Unforgettable Night Marks 30 Years of Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Impact


Press release by: Christy Fritts

In a remarkable display of philanthropy, sports and music A Celebration of Will gala has not only commemorated Challenged Athletes Foundation’s 30th anniversary in grand style but has also exceeded its fundraising goal. Initially raising $5.7 million, the evening took an even brighter turn with additional support after the event, bringing our total amount raised to an astonishing $6.7 million. We are profoundly grateful for the overwhelming support shown, which will undoubtedly make a significant difference in the lives of athletes with physical disabilities.

Hosted by San Diego’s philanthropists and passionate athletes Annie and Jeff Jacobs and Jill and Jeffrey Essakow, the memorable event at Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa attracted generous benefactors, celebrities, and business leaders to support athletes with physical disabilities.

“We are deeply moved by the overwhelming support and generosity that was demonstrated. Raising $5.7 million in one evening is a powerful statement from our community about the value and impact of our work,” reflected Jeffrey Essakow, CAF co-founder and Chairman of the Board. “This amazing contribution will significantly enhance the lives of many athletes with physical disabilities, propelling them towards new heights in sports and life.”

The luxurious Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa served as an exquisite venue for an unforgettable evening, which was marked by personal stories of resilience and determination and moving musical performances from CAF supported athletes.

Breezy Bochenek and Samuel Nehemiah were joined by the Mzansi Youth Choir from South Africa who captivated hearts with their vibrant and soul-stirring lineup of songs. Originating to steer youth singers away from the streets and towards artistic expression, their emotional performance on America’s Got Talent last year earned them the first-ever audience Golden Buzzer.


The pinnacle of the evening was Johnatha Bastos, a remarkable musician, who defies expectations by playing the guitar and piano with his feet, was joined on stage for a performance with Coldplay’s Chris Martin leaving an indelible mark on the hearts of everyone.

With the curtains drawn on “A Celebration of Will,” attendees departed with a sense of inspiration. The gala was not just a celebration of CAF’s 30-year legacy but also a catalyst for a future where athletes with physical disabilities can aspire to limitless possibilities.

Tonight, we celebrated more than just a milestone for the Challenged Athletes Foundation; we celebrated generosity towards a movement for inclusivity and the power of human potential,Jeff Jacobs, CAF board member and co-owner of Rancho Valencia Resort & Spa, remarked. “The overwhelming support witnessed here is a true reflection of the community’s spirit and belief in our mission.”

“It’s been an incredible journey and CAF’s story is still being written and the end is nowhere in sight. The success we have achieved over the past 30 years is merely the springboard for the next several decades,” added Essakow.