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Denise Castelli was an NCAA softball player at the University of New Haven (CT) when she took a steal to second base and badly broke her leg. Crawling to the base to get the tag - and the team's win - Denise knew she wouldn't be finishing out her college season. Her surgeons implanted a rod to aid healing and get Denise back on her feet, but an insidious infection led to 18 months in the hospital, and 37 surgeries, ultimately resulting in the amputation of her right leg below the knee.
At the urging of her prosthetist, Denise and her parents attended a CAF running and mobility clinic where Denise took off like a rocket across the field, giving her back her sense of being an athlete. "That day changed my life. My eyes were opened to an entire world of people who were not only amputees, but also athletes in every sense of the word. From that day on, I was determined to not let this amputation beat me. I had to find a way to not just survive, but thrive. And that's exactly what I did."
Since then, Denise has not looked back. She quickly got back to running, volleyball and even softball. Denise participated in a Sport Chalet hosted softball game, giving her an opportunity to get back into the game she loves. Denise shared her story with the Sport Chalet team and ended with a sentiment of gratitude, "Congratulations to all of you at Sport Chalet, you are now in the business of giving back."
In 2011, Denise served as a ball girl at the U.S. Open, and was featured on national television during the semi-final women's match featuring Serena Williams. Denise was also chosen as one of the CNN FitNation "lucky 7", completing her first triathlon, the Nautica Malibu Tri, in September 2012. "Though I do have some fears (okay, maybe more than some) about becoming a triathlete, I realize that they're the same fears I had when I faced my amputation. I've never let the fear of the unknown stop me before and I'm not going to let that happen now."
Denise will be at CAF's upcoming Aspen Medical Products San Diego Triathlon Challenge on October 20, 2013, celebrating 20 years of changing lives through sport. Denise will be surrounded by over 150 other challenged athletes competing alongside 750 able bodied athletes, at what many call the 'best day in triathlon'. Denise will continue to prove that there are endless possibilities now and in the future for people with physical challenges.