The next event up on the CAF Calendar for the year was Gate River Run. Gate River Run, in Jacksonville, Fl is the national 15k championship and draws a huge crowd of runners yearly. I was excited to be able to participate in the event this year as last year I was traveling through the Southeast filming for Amputee Climbing: The Ronnie Dickson Project.
The schedule of events was full for the weekend, starting with a reception at Brooks Rehabilitation Hospital on Thursday night. The reception was a great opportunity to meet many of the athletes with disabilities from the area and the staff from Brooks. Kelly Mione, director of the Florida Chapter of CAf, was able to get a couple of grants expedited and present them at the reception. Representing CAF were myself, Tim Huston, and Carlos Moleda. They have a huge group of wheelchair athletes in Jacksonville and I know that they were all really excited to get a chance to meet and hang with Carlos for a few days.
The next day I was hosting an adaptive climbing workshop at The Edge climbing gym in Jacksonville, Fl. We had a really great turnout being able to introduce nine persons with disabilities to rock climbing. The energy was really high for the whole clinic and everybody made it high up the wall! Climbing is a huge passion of mine and there is nothing that I enjoy more than sharing that with other people. It seemed like everybody had a really good time. I believe that climbing is a really accessible sport for people with disabilities and even if it is something they only do once it can help push their perceptions of what their limits are and help them through their everyday challenges.
The weekend finished off with the race on Saturday. There were several events happening that same morning. We had many people running the 15k through our Race for a Reason program, to help raise money for challenged athletes. Not only can you go out and do events all across the country and achieve your own personal goals, but you can raise money for a good cause too at the same time. It is a win-win situation! Melissa Stockwell and I were running the 5k together. She lost her leg in combat in Iraq several years ago. Melissa is an above the knee amputee and a phenomenal athlete. She has been to the Paralympics in swimming and currently aspires to complete a marathon. Her life keeps her busy as part of the board of the Wounded Warrior Project, athlete, and a Certified Prosthetist working in the Chicago area.
The 5k was exciting to say the least, about five minutes into the race Melissa had technical difficulties with her leg. Her pin unthreaded from her liner and got stuck in the lock on the socket. We stopped for a few minutes to try and fix the problem but could not get it unlodged. Thinking her race was over Melissa told me to go on without her. I crossed the finish a little after 30 minutes only to hear that Melissa got her pin unstuck and was able to continue running. I backtracked to find her and we crossed the finish line together. Just another way that running as an amputee presents with more difficulties than may meet the eye.
The last event of the day was the Brooks Rehabilitation Challenge Mile. Many amputees from the area and the wheelchair athletes gathered to show that when given the opportunity people with disabilities like to gather and participate just like everybody else.
I met Tim Huston, a six year old above the knee amputee through the facility where I work, Prosthetic and Orthotic Associates in Orlando, Fl a couple of years ago. He recently got running equipment and has not stopped since. He really loves running races and is like the little engine that could. Tim has done a one mile race before but this was his second one so a bunch of us from CAF ran with him. It was really inspiring to see him just take off and cruise to the finish even though he was dead tired.
Overall it was a fantastic weekend that I can’t wait to be a part of again next year. I am really looking forward to it! CAF managed to raise some money and hopefully we will get more support the next year.
Disability is a state of mind, and as far as I’m concerned I’m not disabled.
Take it easy!