Earlier this month, the Challenged Athletes Foundation honored Robin Williams’ legacy with a fundraiser held in Rancho Santa Fe. The event brought almost 500 people together to remember Robin Williams and raise money for the newly established “Challenged Athletes Foundation Endowment in Memory of Robin Williams.”
Established in 1997, the Challenged Athletes Foundation works to support people with physical challenges by providing a variety of sports opportunities. To CAF, involvement in sports at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence, and enhances quality of life.
One of CAF’s most popular events is the San Diego Triathlon Challenge. This year the event is set to take place on October 18th and will feature a one of a kind “challenge” distance triathlon with the opportunity to compete as an individual or on a relay team.
Over $3 million was raised during the gala to provide challenged athletes with equipment and prosthetics as well as training and competition expenses for years to come. In attendance were CAF board members, gala co-chairs, as well as some celebrities and athletes. Zak and Zelda, Williams’ children, were present to award three special CAF athletes.
In the past 21 years, Williams made CAF a cause to focus on. “He made everyone feel so special,” said gala co-chair Jeff Essakow in a moving speech. “He said it was ‘like coming back home, coming back to family.’”
Several other CAF athletes were spotlighted.
Brianne “Breezy” Bochenek was diagnosed with bone cancer at age 10 and chose to have her leg amputated at age 11. She sang at the gala. “I feel like I’m at home on the stage because I do consider CAF family,” she said. “It’s like they have put their arms around me, they make me feel so welcome.”
Sarah Reinersten, the first woman with a prosthetic leg to finish the Ironman World Championship, became an athlete at only 11 years old. “As a kid with a disability, it was tough to get integrated into sports. When I grew up it was in a different time. We didn’t have people with disabilities on TV,” she said.
Reinersten has been involved with CAF for over 20 years, and serves as a role model for Breezy. “I saw a video of Sarah when she was finishing the Kona Ironman,” Breezy recalled. “I didn’t know who she was, and I didn’t know about CAF, but it inspired me to get an amputation because I love to run, I love to be active and I knew it would still be possible.”