What a wonderful event to be part of! Over 750 people came together and raised over $2.2 million for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) at their 11th Annual Heroes, Heart and Hope Gala chaired by Scott Stackman.
Michellie Jones and I were invited to attend and present. It was the first time I had been to New York in 12 years after competing in the 2005 New York Marathon. Other athletes to appear were Lance Weir, Hand Cyclist Skier, Air Rifle Shooter and Coach, and the absolutely incredible 7 year old, Chase Merriweather who loves and participates in soccer, running, baseball.
After a wonderful introduction by the MC and NBC's Today Show host Dylan Dreyer, Michellie and I were the first featured athletes to share our unique journey and partnership over the last two and half years. My sister Brigid, was able to join me in support who recorded our speeches. We thought you might like to view or read the transcribed pieces below and hope there is something you can take out of our messages to as you travel through your own journey.
Disability comes in all shapes and sizes, mine was a little bit more hidden, but I always felt I had to work harder to keep up with everyone, there was certainly that determination, that I didn't want to be treated differently. I wanted the same opportunities as everybody else, and that is a really strong message for tonight.
When you get told that sort of news, that you are going to lose your eyesight and hearing, there was a part of me that thought, time is of the essence, life presents us all different challenges. My Dad always said no-one gets out of life easy. For me, it was really about making the most of all the wonderful things I have.
Tonight's Heroes, Heart and Hope, I think the other key word is humanity and in today's world when there is so much uncertainty around us, it's nights like this that remind us what human life is all about, and that we are all one race, we are all one people and it doesn't matter what our ability is.
There is not much more I can say about Michellie Jones who has done so much for me and my life in such a short period of time. She had many beautiful words to say about supporting me as well as other para-athletes she has met through the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
Thanks to Katie, I have a silver medal as an able-bodied athlete and now I have a gold medal as a para-athlete and, I must admit, having a gold Paralympic medal is honestly, way more special than my individual medal, because I was able to help Katie.
I've been to a lot of events over the years, and I've seen how sport changes your life. I know how sport has changed my life, being a professional triathlete all these years and the opportunity that it leads. I'm definitely a big believer in that it doesn't matter if you are an able-bodied athlete or a challenged athlete, we all have similar obstacles, we all want to get to the finish line first. Its costly, its expensive, its challenging and I was lucky enough not only to guide Katie, I have actually coached several challenged athletes... and definitely as an able-bodied athlete, seeing how sport can change people, seeing what it can provide, and also unify us as one, is very, very important. And to understand para-athletes are real athletes, no doubt about it. I have seen them train, I've seen the dedication and the commitment and to be part of Katie's journey, to me as I said is one of the most amazing things sport has given me.
In the future, think about the CAF, what it has done to so many people's lives and what it will continue to do. And thank you to all the para-athletes who have inspired me over the years.
Thank you again CAF and Michellie, what an evening and what an honour! You can view photos from the night by clicking below.
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