A Celebration of Heart Gala Unites the Bay Area to Support Challenged Athletes and Salute Paralympians competing at Tokyo Games

February 20, 2020

Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) hosts a special evening to raise funds to empower individuals with physical challenges through sports

Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) hosts a special evening to raise funds to empower individuals with physical challenges through sports 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA – February 20, 2020 – Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) will host the third annual A Celebration of Heart Gala on March 4 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). The event will honor Paralympic Cyclist Jamie Whitmore, feature a special send-off to several Paralympic hopefuls and honor Bay Area adaptive athletes. The extraordinary evening will bring together supporters, athletes, celebrities and Bay Area business leaders to raise funds for CAF and empower the next generation of challenged athletes by providing adaptive sports equipment, clinics and mentoring. For over 26 years, CAF has raised over $112 million and funded over 26,000 grants to athletes with physical challenges of all ages and abilities, in all 50 states and over 42 countries.

The event will begin at 6:30 p.m. with NBC Sportscasters Therese Vinal (SF Giants) and Laura Britt (SF 49ers) as hosts of the evening, showcasing CAF’s programming and inclusive community. Guests will be moved by stories of overcoming adversity from elite athletes on their path to the 2020 Paralympic Games to a local youth athlete who recently lost his ability to walk as a result of a spinal tumor and is finding his new path through adaptive sports. The party will continue with musical performances by the Well-Known Strangers, who have a personal connection to CAF, and a craft beer tasting sponsored by Stone Brewery. Event Co-chairs include Allison Caccoma & Alan Shanken, and Lotte and Charlie Moore.

At some time along their journey, CAF has supported over 50% of Team USA athletes participating in the 2020 Paralympic Games. “Many of these athletes, including Scout Basset, Bethany Zummo and Jorge Sanchez have been supported throughout their careers,” said Bob Babbitt, Co-Founder of CAF. “From adaptive sports equipment to funding for travel and competition, CAF has helped these athletes prepare for the world’s biggest athletic stage.”

Team USA Paralympic hopeful and CAF athlete, Jamie Whitmore will be featured at the Gala. Jamie was a professional mountain bike racer and went on to become the most successful female athlete in XTERRA triathlon history. In 2008, Whitmore learned that a lingering pain in her leg was actually cancer – a spindle cell sarcoma that had wrapped around her sciatic nerve. The next year Whitmore was in and out of the hospital with surgeries, radiation, chemotherapy and infections that left her left leg without function. Equipped with a prosthetic leg brace, Whitmore returned to cycling with the same drive to succeed. She currently holds several Paralympic national titles, an ESPY award, countless triathlon World Championships and is on the path to Tokyo 2020.

Other Paralympic-bound Team CAF Athletes Attending:

  • Jorge Sanchez (Oakland, CA) – Wheelchair Basketball
  • Trooper Johnson (Santa Clara, CA) – Coach, Women’s Wheelchair Basketball
  • Scout Bassett (San Diego, CA) – Track and Field
  • Bethany Zummo (Dublin, CA) – Sitting Volleyball

Earlier this year, CAF launched the first-ever High School Adaptive Sports Program in Northern California to support and prepare adaptive student athletes to join their high school teams. The program aims to increase awareness of adaptive sports competition while creating training and grant opportunities for middle and high school-aged athletes with physical challenges.

Virginia Tinley, Chief Executive Director, CAF shared “With the launch of the first-ever High School Adaptive Sports Program in the Bay Area, we hope to empower future generations of challenged athletes to pursue their dreams.” 

Additional Athletes to be Honored:

  • Devan Watkins (Menlo Park, CA) – A new 2020 grant applicant, Devan Watkins, age 12, was diagnosed with a spinal cord tumor in 2017 resulted in paraplegia and some upper extremity impairment. Since discovering wheelchair basketball in the Bay Area he has shown improvement in his physical and mental health. In January, the Golden State Warriors surprised him with a customized Per4Max wheelchair on behalf of CAF. Devan is one of many athletes who are participating in the first-ever High School Adaptive Sports Program recently launched in the Bay Area.
  • Breezy Bochenek (San Ramon, CA) Breezy was diagnosed at 10 years old with Osteosarcoma, an aggressive form of bone cancer on her left thigh and doctors amputated her leg above the knee to save her life. Since her fight with cancer and leg amputation, Breezy has been determined to overcome her limitations. Now, 17 years old, she regularly races triathlons, surfs, runs, and has won awards like the Challenged Athlete of the Year at the 2014 Endurance Live Awards in San Diego, Calif. She inspires and mentors others and has overcome her diagnosis through the power of sport. She is also a very talented singer and has performed for CAF dozens of times.
  • Kate Roe (San Ramon, CA) – Kate, 8, was born without bones in her legs. She has been through 9 surgeries, 5 body casts, and months of hospital stays over the years. At 2, her foot and knee were amputated and by 3, received her first prosthetic leg. Kate is kind, charismatic, positive, and extremely active. She never turns down a challenge and loves to inform others about her “robot leg”. She attended the 2019 San Francisco Running and Mobility clinic at Oracle Park where she was mentored by Breezy Bochenek. Last October on the first night of the Million Dollar Challenge, CAF presented Kate with an Össur running leg and she looks forward to competing in track, basketball and softball.

This April, CAF will announce a record-breaking number of grants to continue to empower dreams. Programs include grants for adaptive sports equipment not covered by medical insurance such as running prosthetics, handcycles and sport wheelchairs along with travel, training and competition expenses. CAF offers camps and clinics, including running and mobility, paratriathlon, swimming, adaptive cycling, wheelchair basketball, sit volleyball and much more. CAF’s Operation Rebound® program supports injured military, veterans and first responders to strengthen their mental and physical well-being through sports. With strong mentorship, CAF provides post-rehabilitation services to the newly injured and those with physical challenges through inclusion and strengthened communities. Overall, 103 different sports are supported, including wheelchair rugby, blind surfing, equestrian, sled hockey, adaptive CrossFit and many more to empower active lifestyles.

Sponsors for the 2020 Celebration of Heart include: 

Silver: IRONMANÒ, Alison & Michael Mauze, Sixth Street Partners, Spinner Family, Wisdom Audio

Bronze: Asset Management Company, Mark Bregman, Alan Shanken & Allison Caccoma, City Center Bishop Ranch, Kate & Bill Duhamel, Sabrina & Mick Hellman, Christy & Chuck Holloway, Julie & Michael Hughes, Marvell Semiconductor, Lotte & Charlie Moore, Sonoma Brands

Fan: Accenture, Larry & Tania Albukerk, Build Group, ColRich, Kristin & Kirk DeClark, Equator Coffees, Alison & Seth Ferguson, First Republic Bank, Nick Gerson, Christopher Golec, Susan & Terry Gould, Staci Hartman, Brian Jacobs, Susan Levine & Jim Lauer, MarkLogic, Stephanie & Bill Mellin, Nozomi Networks, Schwartz & Carroll Families, Stone Brewing, Viansa Winery

About the Challenged Athletes Foundation

The Challenged Athletes Foundation® (CAF) is a world leader in helping people with physical challenges lead active, healthy lifestyles. CAF believes that participation in physical activity at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.  Since 1994, more than $112 million has been raised and over 26,000 funding requests from people with physical challenges in all 50 states and dozens of countries have been satisfied. Additionally, CAF’s outreach efforts impact another 60,000 individuals each year. Whether it’s a $2,500 grant for a handcycle, helping underwrite a carbon fiber running foot not covered by insurance, or arranging enthusiastic encouragement from a mentor who has triumphed over a similar challenge, CAF’s mission is clear: give opportunities and support to those with the desire to live active, athletic lifestyles. To learn more, visit challengedathletes.org or call 858-866-0959.

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