Everything was going well. I was walking better and my speech was getting better. One afternoon my Recreational Therapist invited me to go to a U.S. Paralympic Military Program camp, which I was skeptical of. I didn’t know anything about the Paralympics, and it was hard for me to conceive of myself as an “athlete”, given that my right side is partially paralyzed. (How would I be an athlete with only one good arm and one and a half legs??)When we got to San Antonio Texas for camp, I was still feeling some anxiety about not knowing what I was going to be doing there. I didn’t realize that I would be amongst so many people with injuries far worse than mine. It was a good feeling, knowing that I wasn’t the only person going through a major life change.
While at camp, I participated in an array of sporting events including wheelchair basketball, sit volleyball, a combine (a lot of small physical activities), an introduction to weight (physical) training, track and field (shot-put, discus, and javelin), equestrian, archery, rowing, tennis and cycling.
The cycling was my favorite, because I could hear the wind blow past my ears, feel the wind in my face, and feel my heart beat again.
It was like running again. It was the same sensation that I felt when I could run. I had almost given up on that feeling until that very moment.
I was back in the saddle again, and I never wanted that feeling to go away.
That was the last day of the camp, and I was disheartened. I felt I had been given a glimpse of something remarkable, but I wasn’t really sure how to maintain it once we were home. I supposed it was time to head back to the mundane.
When we returned to the hospital I asked my Recreational Therapist what kind of bike I had been riding at camp. (Luckily, I had taken a picture of it.) He told me it was a Catrike Recumbent bike — I knew I wanted that bike. My therapist had me fill out some forms, and a few weeks later I was on my way Greenville, South Carolina to get fitted for the bike. A few months later, I was the owner of a new Catrike.
Great. I was officially a bike owner. Now what?
One Saturday, shortly after getting my bike, I got a call from Jeff Snover, a gentleman whom my Recreational Therapist had mentioned to me previously as being part of some sort of special group for people with physical disabilities. It turned out this group was Champions Made From Adversity (CMFA), and the gentleman calling was Chairman and co-founder of the organization. I had been reluctant to get into something that I knew nothing about, and I guess I had dragged my feet for too long … because he was calling me to ride this morning.
So off I went, knowing no one, and very little about CMFA.When I arrived, Jeff introduced me to Leila Lawson (then Program Coordinator, now Director of Development) and CMFA cycling coach and Board member, Michael Bishop. They were a great group of people. It was great to be out, riding with other people. The ride that day was great. No pressure, no expectations, just fun.
Since that day I have been proudly affiliated with CMFA. The day after that Saturday bike ride, my legs were so sore that had a hard time getting out of the bed the next day to go to church. As I was putting on my Ankle Foot Orthosis (AFO), I thought to myself, “I’m going to really need this today.” But I got through it.
The funny thing is that a few days later, I felt like I was walking better! That feeling just gets stronger, along with the rest of me. Don’t get me wrong — I still need my AFO, but I do not rely on it like I use to.
I have grown to trust my new (me after October 28 of 2008) body.
I remember my first Saturday group ride with CMFA and Outspokin’ Bicycles. This was my first time on the open road, and it was awesome. From this point, it just got better. The culmination of all of the hard work was when we (CMFA and I) did Bike Ride Across Georgia (BRAG) that June of 2010. A week of riding nearly 400 miles through the hills of Georgia. It was a physical and spiritual experience, a life-defining moment I will never forget. Being a part of CMFA has helped me in so many ways. My health has improved, my bad cholesterol (LDL) has gone down, I feel like my gait has improved, and I’ve noticed a real improvement in my cardiovascular endurance. I continue to do a lot with CMFA. Not only because they are a group that understands people with physical disabilities, generally, but also because I now consider many of the participants and staff close, personal friends.
I want everyone to experience the full life that CMFA can help introduce people with physical disabilities to. I believe in the good that this organization does, and I show this through financial support.
I hope you will consider donating to CMFA also. My life would be very different without them.
THANK YOU CMFA AND FUTURE CMFA SUPPORTERS
- Michael Smith