Inspiration is wherever you find it, and on Sunday morning of June 24th there was plenty in Central Park. I was on my usual bike ride around the loop and discovered that the Achilles International event called the Hope and Possibility Race was about to take place. I cut my ride short and rode back to my apartment, returning with my camera equipment.
I was no stranger to this group, having photographed them at their regular weekend meetings for years. In 2007 I got one of their participants on the cover of the Annals of Internal Medicine. But I had never made it to their big yearly event.
Achilles International was founded in 1976 by Dick Traum, the first amputee to run the New York Marathon. Their philosophy is to build strength and self esteem for people with disabilities through athletic participation. The organization maintains chapters all over the US and the world, in countries as far away as Japan, India, and South Africa.
Athletes with a wide variety of disabilities were there on Sunday. There was a group from the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans, some of whom had been grievously injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. A large group of children from Achilles Kids were having a great time both watching and participating in the run. There were blind runners who ran with official guides from Achilles.
I observed all varieties of adaptive devices including canes, walkers, hand-crank wheelchairs, three wheeled cycles, and even scooters. There were several types of prosthetic legs including the “C-leg” which is designed specifically for athletics.
This event was amazing to watch. It is difficult to overcome a disability without nurturing, training, and support – and it is obvious that Achilles International provides just that. Physically challenged people of all ages laughed, sweated, and ran to the finish line on this beautiful sunny Sunday morning. I found the event inspiring and touching, and it certainly renewed the gratitute that I have for my life. I hope that you feel the same way when you see my photos.
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