Jim MacLaren's life was short but amazingly impactful. After getting hit by a New York City bus while on his motorcycle in 1985 and having his lower leg amputated below the knee, the former 300lb Yale football player reinvented himself. He transformed himself into the Babe Ruth of amputee athletes, running a 3:16 marathon and going 10:42 at the Ironman in Kona, Hawaii.
In June of 1993, while competing in a triathlon in Orange County, California, MacLaren was on his bike when a van went through a closed intersection, hit the back of the bike and propelled him into a pole. When he arrived at the hospital he was told that he was a quadriplegic and would never move again from the waist down.
After the accident, three of Jim's friends, Bob Babbitt, Jeffrey Essakow and Rick Kozlowski decided to create a triathlon in San Diego with the proceeds going to help Jim purchase an adapted vehicle that he could drive with his hands. The goal was to raise $25,000 and they ended up raising $49,000 through the first ever San Diego Triathlon Challenge. "At that event," remembers Babbitt, "a number of other challenged athletes came up to us to thank us for what we did for Jim, but to also let us know that there were so many other athletes out there that needed help. Insurance would cover a walking leg, but anything having to do with sport was considered a luxury item."
From Jim's second tragedy, the Challenged Athletes Foundation®
(CAF) was born and in the 18 years since, CAF has raised more than $30,000,000 to help physically challenged athletes lead an active lifestyle. By providing funding for adaptive sports equipment, training and competition expenses, programs and events, CAF helps atheletes get off the sidelines and into the game.
Although Jim passed on in 2010, his legacy and impact will continue to live on through the athletes supported by CAF.