A Celebration of Will Gala Surpasses Expectations, raising $5.7 Million for Athletes with Physical Disabilities

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

SAN DIEGO, CA, Feb. 29, 2024 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- 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 by raising $5.7 million. 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.

Since its inception in 1994, CAF has supported thousands of individuals with physical disabilities to thrive in sports. With a remarkable $177 million raised over 30 years, CAF has provided 44,000 grants in 104 different sports, reaching beneficiaries in every U.S. state and over 70 countries. These grants have covered a wide range of needs, from adaptive sports equipment and prosthetics to covering costs for travel, training, and competition, allowing athletes to chase their athletic dreams.

For more information about the Challenged Athletes Foundation and to learn how you can support, please visit https://www.challengedathletes.org/.

For media images and b-roll of the Celebration of Will Gala, please click here.

About Challenged Athletes Foundation
The Challenged Athletes Foundation® (CAF) stands as a global leader in empowering individuals with physical disabilities to embrace vibrant, active lives. CAF firmly believes that engaging in physical activity fosters self-esteem, encourages independence, and enriches the quality of life. For three transformative decades, CAF has been at the forefront of the adaptive sports movement, catalyzing change, and redefining possibilities. Since its inception in 1994, CAF has raised over $177 million and fulfilled 44,000 funding requests from people with physical disabilities across all 50 states and more than 73 countries, impacting another 60,000 individuals annually through its outreach efforts. From providing essential equipment like handcycles to offering mentorship and encouragement, CAF's mission is clear: to provide opportunities and support to those who aspire to lead active, athletic lifestyles. To learn more, please visit www.challengedathletes.org.

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A Celebration of Will Gala Surpasses Expectations, raising $5.7 Million for Athletes with Physical Disabilities

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