Molly Shen from KOMO news did a story about my visit to veteran friend Dan Berschinski and other wounded soldiers at Walter Reed - it was an amazing experience and an eye opener. We are awfully isolated over here, especially tucked way up in the Pacific NW - much of that is a blessing and much of that is thanks to many generations of veterans and active duty service members. I was thrilled to be able to help in any little way and believe we all can and should do more.
Welcome to the 1st Annual AJK Classic
to be held on the 25th August 2012 We are very excited to announce a great day filled with Golf, Friends, Food, Drinks and an Auction to benefit a wonderful Foundation, the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
This is a Foundation that I am extremely passionate about and greatly respects what they set out to accomplish.
I am where I am today because of all the support I've received and now, with your help, I’d like to “give back” and "play it forward."
The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) was founded in 1997 by a group of triathletes who were attempting to raise money to buy racing equipment for their friend, Jim MacLaren, who was one of the best amputee triathletes before he was tragically struck by a car while competing in a triathlon and paralyzed. Since that time, CAF has grown into the preeminent resource for support and equipment for para-athletes across the United States and beyond. In addition to fundraising through charity events like the AJK classic, CAF also raises money and awareness through events that encourage participation, including their San Francisco to San Diego bike ride or the San Diego Triathlon Challenge.
Like thousands of other athletes, CAF has greatly impacted my life and made it possible for me to compete in triathlons around the world. In 2011, I qualified for Nationals and the Ironman World Championships in Kona, Hawaii. I had only recently started racing in triathlons and at the time, I was using an older handcycle that did not meet the required regulations. Without a new handcycle, I was told I would not be able to compete in the World Championships. While I was ecstatic to have qualified for the World Championships so early in my racing career, I was devastated by the possibility that the cost of regulation equipment would prevent me from participating in the race. Through its grant program, however, CAF stepped in and purchased a regulation handcycle for me - allowing me to compete at Kona and finish 2nd in my division. Today, I continue to race with the handcycle given to me by the CAF.
There are countless other stories like mine, where CAF has provided support and equipment and given competitors like me the opportunity to compete. This is what makes CAF such a special organization
I support the CAF and hope that you will help me raise money so that they can continue to step in and give athletes the chance to compete and reach their goals
A funny thing happened on my way home from Youth Camp this year...and NO ONE LAUGHED! I had made my way quite successfully through a week of dancing, climbing, soccer,and gaga (obviously I am horrible at all of them - save for my domination in gaga ball=). I survived all sorts of fun and demanding activities in Ohio only to go down in glory in front of a huge audience of fellow travelers back at SeaTac airport. My backpack was huge and heavy and I was toting my racing chair along - an Ironman-wannabe can't travel without SOME gear.
So, I had just walked in front of all these people to pick my spot while waiting for the underground train. My right toe just grazed the ground and everything was CHRYSTAL CLEAR and in Sl-o-wwW mowwW-t-i-onnn.
This boy was goin' down!
No biggie really, it's a pretty common occurrence for someone without biological knees or feet and only one of them hip thingers. With all the gear though, it was going to be messy - I went down in about 5 different acts...each one more awkward and outstanding than the last. The entire way down I was just thinking about the people's reactions - it's always about the same: 'Oh Dear!' can usually be heard somewhere from one of the more fragile bystanders, then there's some running over and offers of assistance mixed in with 'are you alright' types of really normal things that are completely fine, understandable, and appreciated.
Okay fine, but as I lay nose (honestly) pressed to the hard, shiny floor that had just amplified the fall with the mess of metal legs clanging against it on their way to the ground, I was listening to a man's dress shoes clicking quickly over and I thought:
"Damn - I wish I was back at camp!"
Instead of popping right back up, I just lay there reflecting (and sort of hiding). Just minutes after saying goodbye to the last camper that I traveled home with, I already missed having the company of a fellow amputee to laugh about this with.
I WAS FINE! IT WAS FUNNY!!!
Here, among all these darn normal people, the only thing I could do was get embarrassed.
Within this tale of clumsiness lies the beauty of camp. It is full of kids (and counselors) that can relate. You just don't get that the other 51 weeks of the year and it feels really good to know, somewhere out there, are a bunch of people going through the exact same things as you.
I definitely draw strength from that and I believe the kids do too.
Thank you so much for your support of the Paddy Rossbach Youth Camp. It is every bit WORTHY of your donations and I hope that you will keep supporting it. The second I feel otherwise - I will be honest about it and find another way. We would like to grow this camp. EVERY year, more kids lose a limb to a lawnmower accident alone (over 500!), than are currently able to come to camp.
There is plenty of need and camp fulfills a vital role in kids' well being. We are all grateful for it and for your help.
See you next year CAMPERS!
When I go to a swimming pool, I am that different guy. Sitting on the ground after popping off my legs and hopping along on my arms, I cannot help but be self-conscious. I clearly remember the first day, after nearly 3 months (aka- eternity) in the hospital, out and about in my car with hand controls. Straight to the hardware store I went, out to do whatever with my regained independence. There was a moment when I wheeled into the large establishment that it hit me, how I must look. A legless dude, sitting in a wheelchair trying to get along as normally as possible, yet looking can't-help-but-notice peculiar. There was a real sense of pride when I realized it simply didn't bother me enough to keep me from going and doing whatever I needed or wanted to do. There's been a lot of those moments in my life. It feels good and right - to push out concerns of other's perceptions or my own discomfort with who I am. This has absolutely allowed me to enjoy life more.
That's why, when my sister Bianca suggested to me, "Let's volunteer at the Amputee Youth Camp", I was in. Not only did it mean so much to me that she wanted to be involved, but it made perfect sense to me - being an amputee (while escaping this added complication while traversing adolescence) I could understand how much this opportunity could mean to the kids.
Last summer we went to Camp Joy and took part in an absolutely amazing experience that has us both totally committed to this cause and eager to not only go back to camp but to try our best to make sure that all kids with limb loss or limb difference can attend. I wish you all could experience it but I'll just take a shot at providing a glimpse:
Think of me, an adult trying to get a workout at a local pool and worrying about self image and the logistics of it all, coping pretty well but having a good deal of life experience to aide in that effort. Now imagine a 10 year old, at the pool, surrounded by 100 other swimmers that all live their daily lives confronting similar issues in mobility, inhibition, and a whole host of other small and large issues that other people simply aren't aware of. That's one example of what camp offers.
My hope is that every single child who has lost a limb to trauma, disease, or was born with a limb difference, gets to come to this camp to learn, try new things, and share experiences with those who understand. Camp and all travel expenses for the kids are paid for by the Amputee Coalition. The facilities are excellent. I've been to summer camps as a kid and this still felt like camp. While being accessible to every camper, nothing is too easy. Getting around camp takes effort and creativity. The Camp provides an atmosphere for positive growth and gives the children (and volunteers) an amazing outlook for their daily lives. It is truly inspirational; it made me want to live better and do more.
My sister's Birthday is Saturday. She has made it her wish this year to raise $34,000 to help get kids to camp. Please give a little, it will go directly to camp and it will do a lot!
There are so many reasons for this I could simply list them, explain them, and bore the snot out of both of us. Who cares why? This is for me, it might be for you too.
"i did everything i could do"
Ever since I said this to myself the other night, it has taken me on a bit of a ride. A short ride, admittedly, but it has shown potential and even sums up many reasons for typing at the moment.
If this actually breaks the ring of family and close friends, I will be amazed. However, in case of that I will explain a few things that might otherwise lead to some confusion.
It took 4 of the 5 cars of a modernized Soviet 81-71M metro train to do it, but I lost the entirety of one leg, and everything to just above the knee of the other. The lack of 1 hip-joint, 2 knees, ankles, and a couple of feet does make it pretty difficult to get around, but after 6 years I've gotten pretty used to it and don't even remember, from time to time, that I ever got around differently.
Well, I don't often forget that I was 'normal' for 24 years (debatable) but the actual feeling has slid far away.
You'll have to trust me, it gets more interesting than that.
Not that getting over the darkside of trauma was easy, but I sure thought my life was going to be a lot different once I did. This is good and bad. I give myself a big thumbs up for a lot of things but...Boo-hisss and a big thumbs down is my playful way of saying I still live like a moron all too often, as if I was blissfully ignorant of my narrow escape from total wipeout. I can still muster up a pretty good chill if I try to figure out how I actually survived that one. Truly a lucky fool.
I don't dream about running, jumping, squishing grapes between my toes, or many other activities. Fact is, there are still infinite possibilities and I have yet to run out of things I can do. For some reason pigeage (or grape squashing to me, until just a second ago) was never on my wishlist in any case. A more accurate picture of want is to be a person who is where they want to be, or even beyond. Do you think of a goal or ambition that you could have 'easily' reached by now if you had really done what you needed to do and thought about how great living would have been? From time to time I am very pragmatic and I know that productive thinking is the way to move forward, so I am not depressed about this and I certainly am not stuck in the "what if?" game.
Thinking about all of this lead me to the end. At the end of my life, at the end of today, this minute, even this sentence, I'd want to have done something. My path is far too uncertain - variables rule our life - for me to really know what those wants will be. What I can say with near certainty is that I will have wanted to do what I could. Moments which make me most proud were not those that showcased my mental laziness, lack of effort, or even perfection for that matter. The right tracks in my life have been laid by trying new things, working my arse off, experiencing things beyond my comfort, giving a rat's patoot about self-consciousness, loving people and empathizing with others (or attempting as much), and generally thinking...keeping that internal dialogue going and being honest with myself.
And so, at any moment and on every time-frame I am trying to ask myself: "am I doing everything I can?".
It doesn't have to be literal, the answer only needs to be thoughtful. I've been thinking about it and it has made me feel better about a lot. I'm typing because of it and for the good of my friends and family out there that I don't stay in contact with. It may even be for the good of any passerby who could waste time anywhere on the web but is doing so here =) Really it's for me. I don't need feedback, readers, bashers, smashers, deadbeats, creepy crawlies, or applauders. I had completely different ideas for this website, but I had to start something - now. There's no plan, no concrete ideas of what will be showing up on these page(s) but I will be moving forward and willing, doing, going - and a bit of rambling too =)