SAN DIEGO, CA, Oct. 20, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Watch the Celebrations of Abilities award program here

For the past 26 years, CAF has hosted its flagship community fundraising weekend of events in October. This year’s creative pivot of the 2020 CAF Community Challenge presented by Vega has raised over $2.4 million through a successful multi-week of virtual fundraising events. During the ten-week athletic challenge, over 900 participants nationwide collectively moved 211,000 community miles to help more challenged athletes gain access to sports.  Additionally, the Celebration of Abilities award program and generous donor matching gifts helped make the reimagined fundraiser a huge success.

“I am truly grateful for the massive efforts and support from our athletes, fundraisers and supporters, who have contributed to the overall success of this Community Challenge,” said Virginia Tinley, Chief Executive Director. “We had tremendous participation in the virtual challenge to help support our challenged athletes in the future.”

For the challenge, all activity miles were logged on Strava (and other fitness platforms) between August 8-October 18. As fundraising teams united, athletes remained determined and showed up in creative ways to use sports and fitness to empower more dreams. A record-breaking 234 challenged athletes who have been supported by CAF also participated and raised money to pay it forward.

Highlights of the 10-week Challenge:

  • Three determined CAF athletes recently made history as the first athletes with permanent physical disabilities to attempt the Smoke ‘n Fire 420-mile mountain bike race. Andre Kajlich, a double amputee and Lucas Onan and Mohamed Lahna, each with limb differences, rode, hiked, scooted, and crawled as they endured 5-days of bike-packing across Idaho’s rugged backcountry. Lucas Onan became the first athlete with a physical disability to complete the race.
  • Paralympic-hopeful in handcycling, Brandon Lyons, led the challenge for individual top mileage overall and logged a total of 2,852 miles on his handcycle. In 2014, he dove into shallow waters at the beach and was left paralyzed from the chest down. Now age 30, Brandon is the first hand-cyclist to be a full-time resident at the US Paralympic training center with sights set on Tokyo 2021.
  • Long-time CAF supporter Jamie Maguire, Chairman of the Board of Philadelphia Insurance Company, a Challenge sponsor, was logging miles until the very last minute and came in just .50 short of the challenge leader, Brandon Lyons. At the challenge’s end, Jamie committed another $5,000 to support athletes like Brandon training for the Paralympics.
  • CAF athlete, Dr. Bryon Solberg logged 219 activities throughout the challenge. At 58, “Dr B” has found his own cure as a runner with spinal cord injury and has completed more than 192 marathons on foot using canes and braces.
  • Barry Vince, 55 of Long Beach, CA has dedicated over 218 hours of fitness to the challenge. Barry, an able-bodied athlete, has been an avid supporter of the CAF mission and is inspired by athletes with physical challenges in his recent quest of ultrarunning.
  • The top fundraiser, Geof Garth of Aspen Medical Products, raised over $74,000 for the challenge with Dan Williamson of Aspen Medical Products taking second place with $50,000. In the past 20 years, Aspen Medical Products have been involved with their philanthropic leadership igniting a culture of giving back through their employees.
  • Challenged athlete and CAF Board Member, Alan Shanken was honored with the Jim MacLaren award for the greatest contribution to the mission by helping expand CAF in Northern California.

On Saturday, CAF hosted the annual Celebration of Abilities awards program to celebrate the extraordinary heart of CAF athletes and generosity of supporters. During the program, CAF raised $66,000, to trigger the generous match of $65,000 brought in by Dick Lansing and Carleen Kreider, Dan Williamson, the founder and CEO of Aspen Medical Products and the Judy and Peter Blum Kovler Foundation. Additionally, a generous gift from the Ken Whalen Family Foundation motivated a group of local athletes to create a swim, bike and run fitness challenge completing 140 miles each with the goal to match that gift. Special thanks to Board Members Jeffrey Essakow and Alan Shanken for their extraordinary fundraising efforts.

What began in 1994, as three friends’ kindness and compassion to help one athlete paralyzed in triathlon has now grown into a powerful current that has carried and supported those with physical challenges. Now, in its 27th year, CAF continues to change perceptions of what people with permanent physical disabilities can accomplish. The funds raised from 2020 CAF Community Challenge and the Celebration of Abilities directly support CAF’s mission to provide opportunities and support to people with physical challenges so they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics. CAF believes that involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence, and enhances one’s quality of life.

Sponsors of the 2020 CAF Community Challenge include Vega, Aspen Medical Products, Nike, Össur, Toyota, 100%, Strava, Smoothie King, IRONMAN®, Philadelphia Insurance Companies, VitalfitSR, Lusardi Construction, XTERRA Wetsuits, Tech Sgt. Jack Kushner, Sully Entertainment Group, LLC, J&L Pie, Accenture, Headsweats, Canyon, Union Bank, Converse, Ashworth Awards, LAZ Parking, The San Diego Union-Tribune, SockGuy, Spinergy, Independent Trading Co., Montana Mex, Rudy Project, ZoneIn, Equator Coffees, Sycuan Casino Resort, Abilico, Activbody, Cavignac & Associates, PRO Rich Nutrition, Credo, The San Diego Foundation, South Coast Surf Shop, Addaday, Freemotion and Charge Running.

About the Challenged Athletes Foundation

The Challenged Athletes Foundation® (CAF) is a world leader in helping people with physical challenges lead active, healthy lifestyles. CAF believes that participation in physical activity at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.  Since 1994, more than $123 million has been raised and over 30,000 funding requests from people with physical challenges in all 50 states and dozens of countries have been satisfied. Additionally, CAF’s outreach efforts impact another 60,000 individuals each year. Whether it’s a $2,500 grant for a handcycle, helping underwrite a carbon fiber running foot not covered by insurance, or arranging enthusiastic encouragement from a mentor who has triumphed over a similar challenge, CAF’s mission is clear: give opportunities and support to those with the desire to live active, athletic lifestyles. To learn more, visit challengedathletes.org or call 858-866-0959.

 

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Christy Fritts
Challenged Athletes Foundation
858.442.9570
christy@challengedathletes.org