IDAHO — The Challenged Athletes Foundation alongside Mission43 came together Fri., Feb. 12, to celebrate their partnership, give back to their members and continue to inspire military veterans and adaptive athletes to make their dreams a reality.
“We are striving to make Idaho a premiere destination for accessible world-class recreation with CAF and we want Idaho to become the most desirable state for life after the military for veterans, their families, and spouses,” Roger Quarles, Executive Director, J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation.
The message was clear and the goal was set, at the CAF and Mission43's 43INC Speaker Series hosted at the War Hawk Museum.
A night of reflection and inspiration as Scotty Smiley, the first active-duty blind officer in the Army shared his story.
“He put his hands back on the steering wheel, took them off again, shook his head no, let his foot off the brake, and that is when I shot another round," Smiley said to the crowd. "And then boom, my world went black.”
Smiley lost both of his eyes to a suicide bomber in Iraq while serving in 2005. Now, he's sharing his story of forgiveness, perseverance, courage, and hope with the veterans and CAF athletes of Idaho.
“We both got blown up serving our country, he obviously lost his sight, I didn’t, but I don’t know how to express how meaningful it is to me to see someone who came from a similar background to excel in such a magnificent way,” Dan Nelson, a veteran, and the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation Program Coordinator said.
“I hope the public, both military veterans and civilians take away how to adapt and how to embrace our circumstances and make it into something positive," he added.
CAF-Idaho also had a big surprise waiting for Nick McGhee at the end of the night.
"To see him excel, and be really good at this sport it was definitely time to get him his own equipment," Jennifer Skeesick, CAF-Idaho Director said.
McGhee, who is confined to a wheelchair, and recently had to have a kidney transplant, fell in love with Nordic skiing the first time he attended a CAF clinic.
Now, thanks to a CAF grant, he has his own Nordic sit-ski and plans to continue to compete in the sport.
“Even though I have this illness I am never going to give up and I am just going to keep on pushing and trying to do my best at it,” McGhee said.
“It’s the way it should be," Skeesick said. "It is all the good that we need more of and to be able to do that and have the support of the Albertson Family Foundation, and both of these organizations and creating so much impact in our state, I don’t know how you really put that into words.”