In Kelly’s Words – Shifting Gears
My favorite day of the year is always the Kelly Brush Ride. I say this a lot, and I’m not sure people always believe me, but it’s true. I love the energy of the day, the friends I see, the new people I meet, and the community that comes together all in support of the mission of the KBF that I believe so strongly in.
It’s going to be a bit different this year, but we’re going to make it awesome. I don’t think anyone could have dreamed up that something would change so many facets of our society in such a short time. But here we are, COVID has done just that. Since COVID started I had hoped that we would still be able to hold the Kelly Brush Ride, we felt we had as good a chance as anybody: in a state with few cases, end of the summer before school starts in earnest, a flattening and decreasing curve. But now, a little over two months away from the ride, it has become clear that we cannot safely hold the Kelly Brush Ride in-person. I’m so sad about this but I know it’s the right decision.
This will be the first Saturday after Labor Day since before my injury that I will not physically be with hundreds of friends, new and old, all riding to support the Kelly Brush Foundation. But I challenge everyone to be there in the spirit of the Kelly Brush Ride, find your own adventure on September 12th, and celebrate of a summer full of training and fundraising.
The spirit of the Kelly Brush Ride is really what makes it special. First and foremost, it is a fundraiser. When my Middlebury ski team teammate planned the first Kelly Brush Ride, they wanted to raise money for me to buy a monoski so I could go skiing with them. It is in that spirit that so many people join together to provide people with spinal cord injuries a chance to learn about and participate in adaptive sports.
I have read every grant application that has come to the KBF, which is probably approaching 2,000 applications! They never get old. Reading about the importance of adaptive sports, and the impact on, not only the individual, but also their family, their physical health, and their mental health is so impactful. I find myself nodding along, saying “Yep, nailed it” or “huh, that’s a really interesting take”, or “well this person is just awesome.”
Our grants provide the ability to get out of your house, enjoy nature, get a work out, and participate in activities again that may have been taken away because of an injury. We have helped nearly 1,000 people purchase adaptive sports equipment and inspired countless others with the importance of sports and activity after a spinal cord injury.
I love this mission so much because I live it everyday. I was a huge athlete before my accident and when I got hurt I thought that that part of my life was over and I couldn’t be an athlete anymore. When I learned about adaptive sports and rode a handcycle for the first time, my eyes were opened not only to the possibilities for being active but also for being myself again. Over the 14 plus years since my injury I have found more and more activities that I love and that enhance my life. These days I spend most of my active time in an off-road handcycle, which is equivalent to a mountain bike but also allows me to take walks in the fields and trails around my house with my family. This is a new phase of life for me and I love that I can participate in it regardless of my SCI. I still love to ski in the winter and teaching my kids to ski is both challenging and amazing. None of these activities are possible without the adaptive equipment that I need to participate.
So if you are debating whether to sign up for the Kelly Brush Ride this year, think about what being active means to you and how important it is for you to have that outlet. Even though we can’t be physically together on September 12th, I hope we can all capture the spirit of the Kelly Brush Ride, remember the mission that we are doing it for, and find an adventure that embodies that day. You have the whole summer to train and fundraise for the Kelly Brush Ride; I hope you will join me.