Founded in 1997, the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) was established out of kindness and compassion. The organization was created by three friends as a way to support Jim MacLaren, an exceptional sportsman, initially as an amputee and subsequently as a quadriplegic. Over the course of the next 25 years, the organization helped tens of thousands of physically challenged athletes to pursue active lifestyles through competitive athletics and physical fitness.
CAF is committed to supporting athletes with physical challenges both at home and abroad with a focus on ensuring that they are as respected and accepted as their able-bodied counterparts. In this article, we look at CAF’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic and its dedication to supporting challenged athletes around the world.
Supporting athletes with physical challenges
CAF recognizes the importance of reaching out to people with physical challenges in the community and aims to provide inspiration and mentorship in order to encourage men, women, and youth to expand their involvement in sports. Moreover, CAF aims to boost these individuals’ self-esteem, encourage independence, and enhance their quality of life.
The Covid-19 pandemic has posed unique obstacles for challenged athletes. Dedicated to making the best choices for its athletes, staff, volunteers, supporters, and sponsors, CAF aims to stay ahead of the curve in a situation that is constantly changing.
Staging a variety of virtual events
In line with nationwide efforts to stem the transmission of Covid-19, CAF has increased its online resources for both challenged athletes and supporters. The organization offers a comprehensive range of remote training programs, virtual workouts, and online question-and-answer sessions with challenged athletes. In a letter published on the CAF website, chief executive director Virginia Tinley pledged to promote live events and to provide updates regarding postponements and cancellations.
CAF has collaborated with Achilles International, presenting a series of home workouts curated by Francesco Magisano, Achilles’ director and a para-triathlete, and Michael Anderson, the director of Achilles’ New York City chapter. The workouts, which emphasize stretching, cardio, strength training, and indoor instructional swimming, feature descriptive videos and are available via the CAF website.
Implementing a grant program to support challenged athletes
CAF has witnessed firsthand the impact that Covid-19 has had on the nation’s challenged athletes in terms of endeavors related to fitness and sports. Despite continued uncertainty about what lies ahead over the coming year, CAF’s mission remains unchanged. The organization strives to serve as a recognized leader in promoting athletes with physical challenges and ensuring that they have the same opportunities as able-bodied competitors.
Offering a variety of grants
CAF grants are available to people with permanent physical disabilities, as defined by the eligibility criteria of the International Paralympic Committee. The following are some of the different types of grants available to US and Canadian applicants:
CAF makes limited grants available to applicants based outside of the US and Canada in order to fund training/coaching and competition/travel expenses. In addition, it provides contributions toward equipment.
Additional details on how to apply for a CAF grant are available on the CAF website. Applicants are advised to research which grant will prove the most beneficial to them, since only one grant is available per candidate per funding period. Applicants are encouraged to apply early.
Supporters can make one-off donations through the CAF website. The organization also operates a monthly sponsorship scheme and accepts gifts by mail.
CAF has developed a Donor Advised Fund (DAF) in partnership with DAF Direct. People with a BNY Mellon, Schwab Charitable Trust, or Fidelity Charitable DAF can learn more about using them to support CAF by visiting the DAF Direct website.
Providing a corporate matching scheme
Companies can significantly boost the pledges made by their employees by matching charitable donations. Matching schemes can effectively double and even triple gifts made to CAF.
Matching funds for charitable activities provides an excellent way to promote employee engagement and to demonstrate that your company cares for causes that its staff members support. Matched giving not only increases staff loyalty and productivity, but it also raises the public’s perception of an organization. Whether employees are volunteering, donating, or fundraising, CAF’s matched giving service enables companies to support their staff’s achievements.
Since its inception, CAF has raised more than $123 million and reached 20 million people. Moreover, the organization has made more than 30,000 grants across 50 states, as well as 70 countries worldwide, supporting participants in 103 different sports. CAF is committed to creating equal opportunities for individuals with physical challenges and enabling them to lead full, active, and healthy lives.