Every year when August rolls around, I make sure to prioritize getting on my bike. The Kelly Brush Ride happens on the Saturday after Labor Day every year and I want to be ready. One year I hardly trained at all and as I was struggling my way up one of the many hills on the 20-mile route I swore to myself that I would never again go into the ride out of shape. So as I’m trying to get out on my bike more this month I started to think about what is it that motivates me and why one does what they do.

When we think about the things we do, sometimes the motivations are obvious. If you have a job your motivation may be one of commitment (you agreed to do this job so you show up), financial (you need and want the money you get paid to do the job), and, if you’re lucky, you get satisfaction and gratification out of the work you do. Sometimes motivation is obvious, for example, I’m motivated to go skiing because it’s fun for me. But what about something like running a marathon or biking 100 miles? That is hard work and often painful in the process. Motivation is about accomplishing something that is a challenge and proving to yourself that you can do it.

When I got hurt, I was 19 years old. I started the Kelly Brush Foundation (KBF) within a few months of my injury and we started raising money, giving grants, and creating change within the first couple of years. Looking back on that time, what is it that motivated me to do this? At the time, I had plenty going on. I was learning how to live my life in a wheelchair, dealing with the pain of broken bones, going back to a rigorous college environment, and just wanting to hang out with my friends like every other college student. And yet, I saw a need and knew I could make a difference. I saw a gaping hole in the focus on safety in ski racing and the many barriers to getting active for someone with a spinal cord injury. My motivation was to create good out of a bad situation.

When someone new signs up for the Kelly Brush Ride, I’m always curious about their motivation. I wonder how they got involved; who introduced them to the KBF. What is it about our ride and our mission that inspired them to train, ride, and (hopefully) fundraise? Similarly, I think about the people who come back year after year. I know from personal experience that training for the ride and sending out all of those fundraising emails can be tiresome 17 years later. But when I feel like I don’t want to go out for a ride, I think about what motivates me to keep going and it becomes easier. I hope that those who come to the ride and fundraise year after year will think about what motivates them and why they choose to do this and that will inspire them to train a little harder and fundraise a little more.

What motivates me today? It may feel like I say this every year, but we are making a bigger impact today than we ever have before. The more I can do personally, the more lives the KBF can touch. I’m also motivated by the people who show up to ride after putting in the work to fundraise. They are making an impact.

I want to end this blog with a quote from a Kelly Brush Ride fundraising email I received a few days ago. This was from the captain of the Middlebury Ski Team my freshman year, so he had already graduated when I was injured in my Sophomore year. This is the first year he is fundraising for the Kelly Brush Ride:

“What came out of that horrible accident is one of the most awe-inspiring stories of perseverance, strength, and love that one could ever imagine. Straight out of a Hollywood script, along with the support of her family, friends, and the entire Ski Racing Community, Kelly was able to build back to virtually the same outdoor-oriented lifestyle that she had lived before her accident.

Every year for the past 16 years, I’ve seen all the pictures and social media posts from the KBF Ride and said to myself “I’m doing this next year” – of course, when the time finally comes around I find yet another excuse to push it off another year. Not this time – I’m doing it. Better late than never, I guess, and it’s the very least I can do for a family and community that has done so much for me over the years…”

This is what motivates me! Knowing there are hundreds of people sending out emails like this, and thousands more receiving them, all being motivated to donate because of the promise of providing access to active lifestyles.