The Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) believes that sport creates purpose and fuels dreams.

That is why the organization is committed to providing athletes with physical disabilities life-changing access to sport, eliminating barriers to participation through the gift of adaptive sports equipment, athletic prosthetics, and the resources needed for coaching, travel, training and competition.

Breaking Down Barriers

While studies have shown that participation in sports and physical activity enhances the psychological well-being of people with physical disabilities through opportunities to form friendships, express creativity, develop a self-identity and foster meaning and purpose in life, many athletes are still left on the sidelines.

CAF’s story began in 1994 with Jim MacLaren, a former Yale football offensive lineman, who became a competitive endurance athlete after a motorcycle accident resulted in the loss of his leg. When a second accident resulted in quadriplegia, three friends – Jeffery, Rick and Bob – held the San Diego Triathlon Challenge (SDTC) to raise enough funds to purchase an adaptive van for Jim so that he could experience greater freedom and independence. It was during SDTC that these friends learned for the first time that most insurance companies do not cover adaptive sports equipment, considering it to be a “luxury item.”

Two of the greatest barriers to adaptive sports participation are financial and program inaccessibility – this includes the increasingly high costs of adaptive sports equipment not typically covered by insurance and the lack of available adaptive sports programming. 

‘From One Came Many’

Landis Sims with MLB players at La Jolla Little League (Credit: Rich Cruse)

In 2022, CAF is focused on creating a future ignited by sport, shining a bright light on the adaptive sports movement and the incredible achievements of the athletes supported through the organization’s various programs.

CAF plans to create even more opportunities for athletes with physical disabilities to experience invaluable mentorship and social engagement, participate in events and adaptive sports clinics (including expanding into more lifestyle and outdoor adventure sports), and feel empowered to chase their goals and dreams.

The phrase “from one came many” sparked the founding of CAF and a movement that has since raised more than $134 million and funded over 35,000 grant requests from people with physical challenges in all 50 states and 52 countries across 103-plus different sports. CAF makes community impact through its:

  • Annual Grant Program for adaptive sports equipment, sports prosthetics, travel, training and coaching expenses
  • High School Adaptive Sports Program
  • Adaptive sports camps and clinics for various sports
  • Community education
  • Operation Rebound, a program dedicated to military veterans, active-duty service members and first responders

Supportive Partnership

CAF Kayak and Sailing Clinic at the Mission Bay Aquatics Center (Credit: Donald Miralle)

In 2022, CAF’s Annual Grant Program experienced a 34 percent increase in applications, the most in the organization’s history; and as those needs continue to grow, so does the importance of securing financial stability to ensure the long-term success of their programs.

That’s why CAF partnered with The San Diego Foundation to establish a nonprofit agency fund

Nonprofit agency funds are permanent investments, managed by The Foundation, to support nonprofit organizations that generate a lasting impact in the region.

CAF’s fund is intended to help the organization build enduring assets and a stable revenue stream to support athletes with physical disabilities in perpetuity.

Smart financial planning in combination with strong stewardship of the funds safeguards CAF’s mission to empower athletes with physical disabilities around the world.

Working with The San Diego Foundation ensures CAF can directly meet the needs of as many athletes as possible, while also securing long-term financial viability and support for those who need it most.

CAF believes in the model so much that it has three such funds with The San Diego Foundation, including:

  • Challenged Athletes Foundation Board Endowment Fund
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation Fund      
  • Challenged Athletes Foundation Robert Spotswood Memorial Endowment Fund

Learn more about how to start a nonprofit agency fund.