BOISE — The Idaho chapter of the Challenged Athletes Foundation just celebrated its one-year anniversary in the state.
"Who I am is based on my involvement with multiple sports, and I would have never been able to do half the things I've done without the help of CAF," said CAF athlete ambassador Willie Stewart.
Stewart lost his left arm in a tragic accident when he was 18 years old. Since his accident, Stewart has gone on to win the Catalina Marathon overall, completing the Ironman and Xterra World Championships and a Paralympic medal in cross country skiing.
In its first year, CAF provided 111 grants to athletes in Idaho with physical disabilities totaling $231,538. These grants help fund training, travel and adaptive sports equipment for their athletes.
"My arm that I have done ten Leadville 100 mountain bike races in a row is a $25,000 arm, and without the help of CAF, I wouldn't have even been on the start line of a Leadville 100, much less do it ten times," said Stewart.
The grants have also helped Meridian resident Chris Manning, who lost his left arm in a 2017 accident. Manning received a grant for a specialized prosthetic to be able to continue his love for paddleboarding.
"I enjoyed doing it before my accident, and I've tried it a couple of times since my accident, but it's really challenging paddling with one arm, especially when the wind picks up," said Manning. "So, I'm thankful for the grant to be able to get a prosthetic so I can still do the activities I like."
The foundation has helped over 600 adaptive athletes in over 100 different sports. They have done anything from camps and clinics for all ages and levels to training elite Paralympians to compete all over the world.
"We've truly been able to shift the dial this quickly to start saying Idaho is no longer following anyone else. We're going to be a leader in adaptive sports," said CAF director, Jennifer Skeesick.
Their message is clear; Idaho's adaptive sports and outdoor activities are accessible to everyone, regardless of ability.
"There's a crew here in Idaho that believes in every single kid in Idaho born with a disability, acquires a disability or traumatic injuries through work or an accident, you're not left out you're actually in," said Stewart.
In its second year, CAF hopes to increase its grants to help more adaptive athletes and to add more sports to their list. They want Idaho to continue to be the lead example of adaptive sports in the world.
"It's not like a membership; it's like a family."
For more information on CAF or to apply for a grant, visit their website.