SDTC: The Power of the Human Spirit

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SDTC medals

(Photographs courtesy of Frank Colosi Photography and CAF unless otherwise noted.)

In 1994, a group of friends gathered together to raise money to purchase a van with hand controls for their friend and fellow athlete, Jim MacLaren. They raised $49,000 that year and gave birth to an organization, the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF), and an event now known as the Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC). Now in its 23rd year, the SDTC has morphed into a weekend of activities, which raised $2.6 million this year. The funds will allow CAF to provide adaptive sports equipment and travel, training, and competition expenses to athletes with physical challenges around the world, and to support the organization's mentoring programs and free camps and clinics.

From October 21-23, more than 5,000 participants, spectators, sponsors, and volunteers gathered in La Jolla, California, where able-bodied individuals and challenged athletes of all ages competed side-by-side to display the power of the human spirit. The SDTC alone raised over $1 million to continue to fulfill CAF's mission to help physically challenged individuals get the support they need to succeed in sports and in life. Additionally, $1.5 million was raised by the Mazda Foundation Million Dollar Challenge, which culminated October 21, through the efforts of 120 cyclists who rode for seven days and 620 miles from San Francisco to San Diego. Plus, the YMCA of San Diego County Tour de Cove raised more than $90,000.

athlete and child crossing finish line

Onlookers support the Kids' Run, a perennial spectator favorite event of the SDTC.

Friday's activities for all the challenged athletes included the XTERRA Wetsuits Open Water Swim Clinic plus the Junior Seau Foundation Adaptive Surf Program Kids Clinic. The morning clinics were followed by the Mazda Foundation Million Dollar Challenge ride-in ceremony. In the evening, the Celebration of Abilities awards and dinner took place. Saturday morning featured the one-mile swim leg of the triathlon at La Jolla Shores followed by five adaptive sports clinics at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center featuring the Össur Running and Mobility Clinic presented by CAF, as well as wheelchair tennis, swim, tandem cycling, and boccia clinics.

athlete hoisting bike

A triumphant athlete hoists his bike after completing the SDTC.

Paralympian Melissa Stockwell, CP, and her service dog

Paralympian Melissa Stockwell, CP, and her service dog participate in the Össur Running and Mobility Clinic. Photograph by Rich Cruse/ CrusePhoto.com, courtesy of CAF.

On Sunday, Robin Williams' children, Zelda, Zachary, and Cody, presented grants for adaptive sports equipment to three challenged athletes: Patrick Ivison received a rugby wheelchair, Sebastian Desposato a surfboard, and Danny Smuts a basketball wheelchair. Williams, who passed away in 2014, was an avid supporter of CAF. Event participants took on the 44-mile bike leg and ten-mile running leg of the triathlon. Other activities included the Philadelphia Insurance Kids' Run, and the Kaiser Permanente Thrive-5K Fitness Walk presented by Hanger Clinic, Austin, Texas.