Above:  Achilles rings the closing bell at Nasdaq.
Photography by Christopher Galluzzo / Nasdaq, Inc.
Achilles Heel
February 2017
We had a wonderful start to the year. Achilles was invited to ring the closing bell at NASDAQ on January 4th. We were an impressive sight surrounding the podium with 36 Achilles athletes, guides and board members in our signature neon yellow shirts as I rang the bell. After the ceremony, we gathered around Times Square as our images were projected onto gigantic billboards throughout the area. It was exciting and wonderful. Thanks to board members Alisa Fastenberg, Mark Weiss, Mary Koutrakos and Ken Podziba for being part of this. Big thanks also to long-time Achilles friend and supporter Theresa Molloy who suggested us to NASDAQ for the event. It was fantastic to have so many of our athletes, guides and staff there too. What a way to (literally!) ring in the New Year!

We continued the positive energy at Disney World with an impressive turn-out. Bad weather prevented many from actually doing the half marathon but that did not dampen anyone's spirits. Thanks to Cigna, everyone enjoyed this magical weekend.

The Lakin Challenge was a great success for end-of-year donations, being matched one-for-one up to $50,000. We hit our goal and more. Huge thanks to Achilles members Neil Mellon and David Greenstein for their generosity giving us another opportunity to double donations to Achilles.

Finally, a few words of wisdom. Paul Kiell, MD , a dear friend for over thirty years and the author of several books on running, summarized my thoughts on a book in progress tentatively called "Addiction to Achievement." I thought this would be a nice way to start 2017....I think you will enjoy it.

Achievement is addicting. It's like the triumph of walking around the block where once a disability held you back. It's like Roy Campanellahall of fame catcher for the old Brooklyn Dodgers. Quadriplegic, courtesy of a freak auto accident, this once athletically powerful man who could throw out a base stealer with a mere flick of his wrist, was then reveling in his newly earned ability to lift a mere five-pound weight.

It begins with the lessons learned in the struggle of overcoming a limitation eventually rising to that of helping others. For example, some of our Achilles Freedom Team volunteers are out there for up to seven hours encouraging and empowering a double amputee to complete 26.2 miles. Then there is the follow up, the staying in touch, the providing advice and encouragement, the congratulations, "Fantastic! You completed the ironman as the first female amputee!"

All the while there is the growing camaraderie, the bonding with Achilles and its research, echoing virtually as a refrain, proclaiming "Yes, let's do the study on running for children with autism." Finally, there is the outreach, the need to do other things better: how can I help accomplish more? The point is, that one addicted to achievement is transferred to the child who becomes the achiever, to the parent interested in helping others, to the mentor interested in helping groups.

With Achilles, the idea is to actually addict members to achievement. Many, having achieved the completion of a marathon, think: "What's next?" Their level of aspiration has increased and the possibilities are boundless. In addition, they have a halo over their heads. People see them in a different light. They aren't poor souls with a deficit: they are marathoners. They have achieved!
That achievement is registered in the brain. One achieves, for example, just by finishing a race, especially a difficult and demanding one. Prolonged exercise will send natural chemicals flowing to their receptor sites located in the pleasure areas of the brain.

Repetitions of one's preferred form of exercise will lead to an addiction with benefits, benefits that accrue from a natural processing that brings out the best in our mental, emotional and physical functions. With this natural processing there comes that element of addiction. Good or bad? Obviously it is decidedly good when the addiction is to something both benign and helpful. Nevertheless, a word about addiction, and in this discussion, it is addiction brought about through struggle, struggle ending in a triumphal achievement, an achievement over pain and debility, an achievement registered in the pleasure area of the brain, an area that always seeks to replicate itself.


Make a donation from your smart phone: Text GOACHILLES to 243725


In conjunction with our premium apparel partner Champion System, a worldwide leader in custom technical apparel, new pieces and Achilles classics are now available for purchase here .

Thanks to support from the Cigna foundation, Achilles was proud to host a team of athletes at the Disney World 5k, 10k, half and full marathons in January. With athletes from the Cigna Achilles Customer Referral Program, members of our Achilles Freedom Team, survivors from the Boston bombing and representatives from Achilles NY, Nashville, Salt Lake City, South Florida, and Houston chapters it was a great cross section of many Achilles programs. With Cigna guides leading the way, our athletes got things cooking with the 5k and 10k races. Unfortunately, weather intervened cancelling the half marathon due to lightning. With the majority of our athletes in the half, this was a tough blow indeed but the safety of athletes, volunteers, and staff is of the utmost importance. We are excited to bring the team back in 2018 for another chance at a half marathon in the happiest place on earth! Deepest thanks to everyone at Cigna, especially Kate Hamer, the runDisney staff, our amazing volunteers Deirdre Penny, Virginia Redmond, Sean Schaming, and Roy Griffith
One of the most touching moments for our athletes was getting to meet Cigna CEO David Cordani and his amazing wife Sherry. Together David and Sherry donated gift cards so that our athletes could enjoy some special Disney magic as a reward for all of their hard work and dedication. We are beyond humbled to have David and Sherry as part of our Achilles family.
In other Disney news, as if being a major league superstar competing in all four scheduled races was not enough, master sergeant Cedric King also spoke at the Cigna expo. Check out his unbelievably inspiring talk.

Above: Achilles Nashville Amy Saffell enjoying her fantastic Disney World half marathon finish.
Tom McGrath , Achilles friend, fundraiser and ultra-marathoner is once again running for Achilles Kids. This time, he is running from New York City to Boston - a huge undertaking! - to raise much-needed funds for our Achilles Kids program. Tom has been running for Achilles Kids for the past four years, doing six marathons in six days, running through the five boroughs to visit Achilles Kids schools and their programs...all to raise awareness for Achilles Kids and raise funds....and now this! This is Tom's biggest undertaking yet. Please take a moment to find out more about Tom and donate to his FirstGiving page

Thank you! Thank you Tom for everything you do for us and Achilles Kids!

Above: Tom "Running Man" McGrath on the run for Achilles Kids; Bottom: Neither rain, nor snow nor early morning wake up calls stop Achilles Kids and their guides from taking part in a 10K run!
Gary Griffin

We are delighted to honor Gary Griffin, M.D. as "Volunteer of the Month" this month. Gary is one of our Achilles CT volunteers who has been guiding members pretty much non-stop since he joined us in March 2015.  Thank you, Gary, for everything you do for Achilles!

"....the important thing is the feeling of being able to be involved and being a part of something. The joy is knowing you put the effort in and tried."- Gary Griffin, M.D.
To read more about Gary, please click here .

To nominate someone as Volunteer of the Month, please email Fiona.


January 2017 started off with a bang in Nashville! Amy Saffell, Achilles Nashville athlete, completed the Cigna Walt Disney World 5K in January with guide, Becky Richardson. They had such a blast and were very complimentary of all the things Cigna does for Achilles athletes and guides during the races. They felt like royalty!
Additionally, Achilles Nashville athlete, Sara Solomon, completed her very first half marathon on her handcycle on January 15th in Houston. Achilles Houston was kind enough to provide two guides for her during the race. She also warmed up with the 5K on Saturday morning with former Achilles Nashville guide Elizabeth Vassey and Elizabeth Billipp Elder. Sara has the racing bug and is already looking forward to her next half marathon this May in Indianapolis! Well done, everyone!

Achilles Philly is off to a destination race! Ten athletes and 30 volunteers are headed to Tampa for the Gasparilla Distance Classic Race on February 25th and 26th. In January, Mark McCowan, Stacey Rosenthal and Patricia Crebase spoke at Germantown Academy to close to 1,000 students about the opportunities and challenges of Achilles.


Above: Achilles Nashville superstar athlete Sara Solomon made the front page of the Houston Chronicle! 
Above: Achilles International Brazil celebrating end of the season by participating in a
Track and Field run series in Sao Paolo.


Photo credits: many of our photos are courtesy of the great, talented, always helpful and very dedicated, Larry Sillen. Thank you, Larry!