Many who have followed my journey know about the successes, the wins, the records, but there remains a story that I haven’t told enough. There are only two reasons that I am where and who I am today as an athlete and human being. First and foremost, I serve a God who has helped me to rise above so much pain, loss, and adversity in my life. And equally as important, He has surrounded me with the most incredible people to navigate life’s peaks and valleys.
Sometimes our greatest challenge is building the courage to start. I’ve gotten to countless start lines because of the Challenged Athletes Foundation. I grew up paralyzed by fear, embarrassed to be an amputee and ashamed of my story. I never once thought that someone who was burned in a fire, lived 7 years as an orphan in China, and faced with a rocky upbringing here in America was destined to do great things in this world. A childhood of largely marginalized experiences left me deflated and discouraged about my future. Truthfully, I did not think I belonged anywhere. When I wasn’t sitting on the sidelines of soccer fields or basketball courts, I occupied my time by reading every political memoir or biography from John Adams to Ronald Reagan by 7thgrade! Oh did I mention I was/am acompletedork??
My breakthrough came in 2002 when a single piece of equipment (anÃ–ssurrunning leg) that I received through a CAF grant, changed me from the inside out. I ran for the first time at 14 years old and I haven’t stopped since. Running became a healing power in my life and transformed me from a painfully shy recluse to a young woman with confidence, passion, and drive. I made a vow to myself that I would never be ashamed of my story or who I am and from that moment on, I set out to run down every dream and conquer every fear and every struggle. I no longer wanted to merely exist, but found my calling in living to serve and help others fulfill their purpose. Yes a single piece of adaptive sports equipment changed the way I thought and lived!
You may hear a thousand “Nos” but it only takes one “Yes” to change your life. If you have a dream or a goal, apply for a CAF Access for Athletes grant and make it happen! Perhaps your dream is to run around with your kids or maybe you want to be the next Paralympic champion ““ whatever your vision is, it all startsHERE. Let nothing stop you from doing what you love and loving what you do.
They say it’s not what you have, butwhoyou have in life that counts. I do life with the best team in the world ““ my family, friends, coach, mentors, role models, mentees, and supporters. Truly it is this “˜A Team’ that keeps my heart beating. If you are reading this, I thank you for believing in me even when I did not believe in myself, for lifting me up when I’ve fallen, and for teaching me to live courageously.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize that on this Thanksgiving, I am immensely grateful for my CAF family and supporters who took me from nothing to something. If you’ve ever wondered whether or not your efforts have made a difference in this world, I can assure you that you have done just that and so much more. My story is possible because of YOU! There are no words to adequately express my appreciation, but I hope this is a start: Thank you for allowing me to live a life beyond my dreams.
With love and gratitude,