SIGN UP NOW: It's much more than a race, it's an event to celebrate life
Hope inspires the belief that there is a possibility to overcome challenges, no matter how big or small.
That's what Achilles Virtual Hope & Possibility is - a race founded on the conviction that athletic competition unites people of all abilities, all colors and all backgrounds. This message is more important than ever before, as our society comes face to face with the growing demands for racial justice and more equity in health care as COVID-19 has significantly impacted our underprivileged population.
This year's race will be a virtual event due to social distancing recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The event will take place from July 18-26, giving participants across the country the flexibility of running, walking or wheeling the race where they live and around their schedules. This way no matter where you are, you can join this special event.
TD Bank and Achilles International – a worldwide organization established to encourage people with disabilities to participate in sports - are partnering for this year's Achilles Virtual Hope & Possibility. The event concludes on July 26, coinciding with the 30th Anniversary of the signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).
Meet some of the participants in the first-ever virtual Hope & Possibility below. To register through July 26th, click here.
A para-athlete who went from learning how to swim to triathlons
Evelyn Rodriguez never competed in sports growing up. But now the Bronx resident - who was bullied as a child for being born with one arm - is a triathlon competitor with Achilles International.
"I was never into athletics as a child, my mother tried to shelter me," she explained. "But there are so many possibilities out there, no one should be limited."
For Evelyn, her athletic career all started with the Hope & Possibility, which she's been running the race since 2014.
"It was amazing, powerful, empowering," she said. "I've never been in a group where I've seen so many people like me, everyone was so kind and loving. All the people, they were so motivating."
Hope & Possibility is a party to celebrate overcoming challenges
Running distances can be incredibly tough for most of us – but Sarah Heller is known among her teammates for leading sing-a-longs during the toughest stretches of any long training run.
"I think all races are like a party with family, they are so much fun," said Sarah.
While she immensely enjoys all events, including her triathlon competitions, – the one closest to her heart is Hope & Possibility. Sarah plans to do the virtual run in Central Park with Herb Pinder, her Achilles Guide for many events. The two have been a team since 2014 when Herb first joined Achilles.
Sarah suffered brain damage at the age of nine as the result of a car accident. Life hasn't been always easy for Sarah, but her strength and determination inspire every person who interacts with her through Achilles.
"It started out as a guide and athlete, but it's grown into a very special friendship," Herb said. "It isn't just about sports, it's about helping someone navigate through this world. I am always excited to be a part of seeing people grow into their best selves."
You just have to reach the finish line
Kathleen Adinolfi never thought of herself as a runner before 2014, when she joined Achilles International.
"I was inspired by athletes with disabilities, I saw them doing multiple marathons a year," said Kathleen who works as a speech pathologist at New York Presbyterian Hospital, " These athletes make us hold a mirror to ourselves, which made me get off the couch and start running."
Kathleen did more than get off the couch. She was so inspired that she became a guide to help athletes with disabilities compete in events. That reinforced the most important lesson she's learned from her experiences as a guide.
"Before I thought you had to be fast to be a runner, now I realize you just have to reach the finish line," she said.
Kathleen will be participating in this year's virtual Hope & Possibility as a volunteer guide with Jenny Hwang who is a visually impaired Achilles runner. They plan to run the event in Queen in Fort Totten Park along the Cross-Island Parkway. She encourages all to participate in this virtual event, whether this will be your first running event or you're an experienced marathoner.
'Just move along with life'
It would have been so easy for Maurcio Blandino to give into his feelings of despair and wanting to hide from everything after he suffered a traumatic brain injury from a fall in 2011 while caring for his elderly mother.
But somehow a voice inside him pushed him to try to make things better. That's when he decided to attend a meeting at a group targeted for those with traumatic brain injuries. He learned it was possible to feel a sense of control and joy again when he heard a participant speak about Achilles International.
"I was hiding from everything, but I heard and saw they took control of their lives by running," Mauricio said. "Before I had only known about runners on TV, I never ran in my life. But what gravitated me to join the group was the energy, where one's disability was not looked at or thought of – just move along with life."
He started his physical therapy with a renewed vigor to gain control of his walk and both sides of his body. After a 1 ½ years, he was able to run around Central Park. That's when he knew he was ready for Hope & Possibility. Mauricio has subsequently participated in the event five times.
"There was so much joy when I did my first (Hope & Possibility event)," he said. "My whole body just lit up. Any pain was overshadowed by a sense of accomplishment."