Updated: Oct 30, 2020
In 2010 I watched the film Emmanual's Gift. Right away the film impacted me strongly enough to watch it again the next night with my family. It gave me two wonderful gifts.
First of all it introduced me to the Challenged Athletes Foundation, this started my athletic journey when I soon found myself at their San Diego Triathlon Challenge and planted me squarely in an amazing community - that I love. I've learned so much from other disabled athletes and the incredible supporters. Both are an integral part of all the organization's activities.
Additionally, the film gave me my mission in life. I decided that night, after Emmanual's story showed me the lack of hope people with disabilities live with in other parts of the world, that if I was to have a mark on the world - it would be to help change that.
Since then, I've met families of kids with disabilities in the Philippines, written to orphans in Tanzania, and heard stories of the horrible treatment of those born with disabilities in parts of Kenya, and learned more about the subhuman treatment, lack of opportunity, and inability for kids to attend school - let alone lead independent lives.
Sometimes it comes down to a lack of resources, but often it is much deeper.
There are organizations that help. Many of these nonprofits attempt to help as many people as possible, but I believe there is a lot that we can do that currently isn't being done. Mohamed, Lucas, and I are in a unique position to do things a little differently.
One thing that crosses my mind, for example when I look at photos of strong young men in Tanzania, is that they aren't unlike me. They are probably even stronger and are certainly capable, but they don't have exposure to what is possible. They don't have the adaptive equipment to get around rural roads or the societal support that could be at least encouraging and possibly life changing for them.
There are parts of the world that won't even give national IDs to people born with a disability. It is normal for parents to abandon them and for their families to be seen as cursed. These are major obstacles to overcome. A wheelchair created for maximum distribution is something, but provides the bare minimum to help. In some cases I can tell that it is no help at all.
So, what can we do?
Well, I whole heartedly think - a lot!
Our global endeavor isn't just some chest thumping quest to show how cool we are as athletes. It's a historic opportunity to not just have an asterisk that says the first people with disabilities to do something, but to be the first humans EVER to achieve a massive physical feat.
We believe we can be the first people to ever cross every continent, from the lowest point of elevation to the top of the highest summits. We won't just climb the 7 summits, starting at whatever arbitrary point people begin to climb. We'll cross and the entire elevation of each continent.
It will be pioneering on many levels and by doing this we can have both a global audience and a very personal audience, in the towns and countrysides we pass through.
We already experienced this in rural Argentina. I'd race young boys on their bicycles. Yes, I took it easy on them but the I would fly past them on my handcycle. I think it blew their minds to see just what we could do, 3 guys with disabilities on a major quest. Just imagine the change in their perspectives and the even bigger change the minds of people with disabilities that we come across and that our story impacts.
Beyond that, we have the goal to help individuals in a major way. It is important to cast a net wide and help many, but by focusing on individuals we aim to radically changing the lives of a few with material support - hopefully growing that number to many.
If there is an expert in covering challenging terrain in a wheelchair, I just might be that guy. Mohamed and Lucas are similarly positioned to help others navigate the world with use of only one upper or lower extremity. We aim to invest in individuals with our experience, our big networks of support, and with long term equipment support. So that they can have dreams of their own and make them become reality.
We will share their story with films and other content, so that their achievements can be the ripples that show others, and the societies they live in, what the potential of a human really is.
Challenged Athletes across the United State have been able to accomplish an amazing feat, changing perceptions - in a big part thanks to the Challenged Athletes Foundation. It is incredible to consider that in the United States we are actually championed because of physical impairments.
Together, we can work to bring down the many obstacles preventing those in other parts of the world from living a full life. In whatever form it takes, we appreciate your support.
To learn more about our foundation - check out the Lowest Highest Foundation
For more of my story - stay tuned for the upcoming film: Joyrider