In the first two weeks of the Ride and Run for Challenged Athletes, over 65,000 athletes from around the world have been logging activities to raise money for the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF). As a collective we’ve raised over $44,000, which means we are more than eighty five percent of the way to reaching our $50,000 goal. Kudos to all of you who’ve participated so far and huge thanks to GU Energy Labs for the financial support.

Like Strava, Gu Energy Labs is a company that is dedicated to helping athletes live active lifestyles. Not only are they putting the dollars behind this Challenge, they are putting up some big rides on the leaderboards.

Just last weekend, Tal Johnson (President, COO), Brian Vaughan (CEO) and Adam Chamberlain (VP Marketing) each contributed over one hundred miles.

We’re incredibly excited to see the level of global participation. Our entire company has embraced the Challenge as a way of continuing our mission of helping people live active and healthy lifestyles. – Adam Chamberlain

This week we caught up with Mary Kate Callahan, a challenged athlete participating in the Ride for Challenged Athletes, to understand how sports have impacted her life. As an infant Mary Kate contracted a rare neurological disease which caused her to lose the use of her legs and thus became a paraplegic. Now, she is a triathlete at the University of Arizona and told us “I never let my chair get in the way. You name the sport, I’ve probably tried it.”

Mary Kate Callahan: Since I was a little kid sports have been a huge part of my life. My parents got me in the water shortly after my injury and I haven’t looked back since. Sports have given me an outlet to feel like all my other friends. Especially when I was younger, I wanted to do everything they were doing.

It wasn’t until high school that I was introduced to the sport of triathlon and I’ve been hooked ever since. Getting to swim, bike, and run over the course of one event is so much fun. My training is different every day and I love striving for different goals throughout the season.

CAF has provided resources for me to be able to compete at an elite level. They gave me a grant for carbon racing wheels when I started competing in more international races.

The CAF family is also second to none. All of the people who work at CAF are always there to give me advice on any sport related questions and they are some of my biggest fans.

Through CAF, myself and other athletes are able to continue to do what we love and chase our dreams.

I race with the collegiate team here at University of Arizona, The TriCats. We love Strava, whether it’s racing one another or just logging miles. I think this Strava challenge is extra special though. People get to do what they love, whether it’s biking or running and while they are doing it, they get to support CAF and continue to help athletes with disabilities do what they love. People should get involved because we’ve all been affected by sports in one way or another.

For those people who get that runner’s high, they should know that by running for this Challenge, they are helping give someone else a runners high through raising money to buy a prosthetic running leg.

From what we’ve learned you definitely don’t need to be a challenged athlete to benefit from working with CAF. Professional triathlete Jesse Thomas tells us it’s a “source of inspiration and motivation” for him. He’s been involved with CAF for 3 years and supports the cause because of the positive impact they have on other people’s lives. Below Jesse shares his perspective on the CAF Challenge and how sport has helped define his life.

Jesse Thomas: When I was young, sports played a big role in my life by giving me structure, goals, identity and an outlet for LOTS of competitive energy. But as I’ve aged, the real value I’ve seen is how sports prepared me for life: creating and maintaining relationships with teammates, challenging and preparing myself, keeping me disciplined and confident in the face of obstacles. I can honestly say that any success I’ve had in life, business, whatever, is directly related to lessons I learned as an athlete.

The athletes I’ve met through CAF are nothing short of amazing. They give me perspective in my own athletic endeavors and setbacks, they help me realize that much more can be overcome than whatever challenge it is that I face at the time. For me, it’s a no-brainer to support CAF however I can.

Jesse Thomas and Ricky James (1)

The Strava challenge just adds another element to feeling real purpose behind the miles you run or ride.

It’s great to see these organizations partner together to provide so much value to so many people. If you want to support an awesome cause and feel even better about your workout, sign up!

For every kilometer run or every three kilometers ridden from now through October 26th, GU Energy will generously donate $0.01 to CAF (up to $50,000). The more kilometers we cover as a collective community, the bigger impact we can make towards this cause. We’ve got one week to go – keep it up and we’ll be on track to achieve our $50,000 goal before the end of the Challenge.