Organizations We Admire

The Challenged Athletes Foundation Is Making Adaptive Sports Easier Than Ever To Join

Mackenzie Meaney

The Challenged Athletes Foundation is one of the leading providers of opportunities for individuals’ physical challenges, allowing them to pursue an active lifestyle with adaptive equipment.

The origin story of the organization starts with a man named Jim Maclaren, who was an elite athlete before losing his leg in a motorcycle accident. Afterward, Maclaren was still an elite athlete, sparking the conversation about what a traditional athlete is, and how people with physical challenges can do the same stuff. Maclaren finished an Ironman race, ranking in the top 20 percent of all finishers.

Later on, Maclaren was in another accident that left him quadriplegic. His friends came together to create the San Diego Triathlon Challenge in order to help raise money for Maclaren to get an adaptive van. The group raised well over $49,000 — the target was $25,000 — and since then, the Challenged Athletes Foundation has raised over $76 million, helping more than 13,000 challenged athletes find their place and passion in sports as well as helping create lifelong relationships.

The Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Instagram

Seven years after Olympic swimmer Haven Shepherd received a double-leg amputation, she met Olympic medalist and fellow bilateral amputee Jessica Long at an event hosted by the Challenged Athletes Foundation. The two have since maintained a strong friendship and even had the chance to compete against one another at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

“It was very evident at the gala that everyone knew Haven and Haven knew everyone,” Long said. “I just remember watching this little girl and it was one of the very first times that I saw another bilateral amputee. Right away, I was just like, ‘this girl is electric.’ ”

The foundation sponsors multiple events for athletes of all ages to participate in. From running and biking to adaptive golf and beach volleyball, there is no shortage of events that the Challenged Athletes Foundation puts on to help people find what exactly they want to do.

To find out more about the Challenged Athletes Foundation, you can visit their website here.

Photo credits: The Challenged Athletes Foundation’s Instagram