Above: Freedom Team members at the start of the 2018 Hope & Possibility ®
Achilles Heel
July - August 2018
On July 17th, "The Courage to Go Forward", a book by David Cordani President and  CEO of Cigna and myself was announced. It is primarily a story about how Achilles and Cigna have inspired amazing achievements of several athletes who are profiled in the book. During the past decade, as David and I worked together, Achilles athletes were achieving goals that many would consider impossible. Who would have ever thought of double-amputees running marathons or handcycle athletes completing a marathon in under an hour? Who would ever expect hundreds of people with disabilities running the NYC MarathonThe question is, "what's happening? "The answer is, "Micro Communities". 
A Micro Community is a group of people, sometimes just two, typically several and often more, who share goals. From my perspective, the community is the greatest motivational tool anywhere. It's Saturday morning, it's raining. Why would anyone think of getting out of bed, traveling to Central Park, and getting soaked? It's because we have friends to meet and run with. Why in the world would someone compete in a 26.2-mile race? The body wasn't designed for it. It's because there are others to compete with. It's because I cannot let my guides and teammates down. It's because after the event, there is joy in reviewing our adventures and telling others of our achievements. People see us as if there is a halo around our heads. I am not an older, balding guy with one leg and a belly. I am a marathoner. I am a beneficiary of the micro community. 

This micro community tool has led to successes and surprises way beyond anything that one could have imagined. Going back two decades, Trisha Meili was one of the authors of a research study concerning the effect of running and exercise on people with Traumatic Brain Injuries. Yes, running improves cognition. Better known as, The Central Park Jogger, Trisha is one of the beneficiaries of running. Tyler McNeil, a marathoner and triathlete is another example. He began running with us as a child and is one of our members on the Autism Spectrum. Tyler's success generated a study on autism and running. If you are autistic and run, you will probably improve physically, socially and cognitively.

There are over two hundred recently wounded veterans - members of the Achilles Freedom Team - who have completed marathons being part of the larger group. The interactions make it work.  David Cordani 
has guided a number of double-amputees in different marathons over many years. His ability to bond, interact, and form a micro community was the secret. With the micro community, so much more is possible. Other Freedom Team Members have become world-class athletes. Consider Tom Davis, another profile in our book. Tom completed the Boston marathon in under an hour and has gone to successfully compete in the Paralympics thanks, in part, to the support of his Micro Community. 

If you are interested in purchasing a copy, pre-orders are being accepted on Amazon. You can also email me at dicktraum@aol.com if you would like a signed copy of the book. All proceeds are donated to Achilles.


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 .


Don't forget, if you shop at Amazon please shop at https://smile.amazon.com. When you shop here, the AmazonSmile Foundation will donate 0.5% of the purchase price of eligible products to the charitable organization of your choice. Be sure to select Achilles! This can generate a lot of money if we can make it a simple habit for 10,000 people on our contacts + thousands of others in our personal social media contacts. Thank you!


After months of training, the big day - June 24th - finally arrived! Twenty-seven Achilles Kids were ready to go the distance at the 16th Annual Achilles Hope & Possibility® 4M. Excitement filled the air as the kids and volunteers gathered together in Central Park, got their race bibs secured, did some quick, but important, warm-up stretches and then headed to the start, ready for the challenge that lay ahead. Our Achilles Kids athletes toed the start line alongside thousands of other runners and went the distance, crossing the finish line with tremendous pride at their accomplishment. 

We are SO PROUD of all our athletes and so grateful to our Achilles Central Park Workout Leaders - Angie Musco, Carolyn Wynne and Theresa Molloy - our NY Cares Team Leaders - Ken Borelli, Mark Fonseca, Marty Piccinich and Rich Marino - and last, but by no means least, our amazing team of dedicated volunteers who run, walk, guide, encourage, and support our athletes every Saturday morning. Mornings when they could all easily sleep in or enjoy any of the 1,001 things the city has to offer. One look at the pride in the kids' faces, their arms outstretched in triumph as they cross the finish line - speaks volumes about the difference our program makes in the lives of our kids. And it's possible only with thanks to all the caring, dedicated folks who so freely give of their time and energy to our kids.

The Hope & Possibility ® 4M was just the first of several races on our 2018 Calendar. Next up, the always exciting NYRR 5th Avenue Mile on September 9th. #GoAchillesKids!


Our signature event, the 16th Annual Hope & Possibility® 4 Miler in Central Park was a huge success. A sell-out crowd registered for the race including 600 children in the Kids Dash. Michael Longoria of Broadways Jersey Boys gave a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem to kick off the race. We had 20 members of Achilles Freedom Team, 27 Achilles Kids, 18 International Chapters and several hundred members representing New York Chapter and other National Chapters, all coming together for the largest race in the world that embraces people with disabilities. Thank you to U-Haul and GM Military Discount for sponsoring the event. Thank you to  NYRR for producing the event. It was a memorable day coming together to celebrate the power of the human spirit and highlighting the importance of disability inclusion.

A huge thank-you to our friend and inspiration, Trisha Meili, who started it all sixteen years ago! Without you, none of this would be possible. Thank you!

Above , Top & Left Side: Fun & Fabulous: Cigna Achilles Team members get silly for the camera. 
Bottom Right: Lucia, of the Achilles Friedman Diabetes program by Northwell Health, struts along the Park Drive with guide Laura. We love our volunteers from the FBI Citizens Academy Alumni and FBI Explorers!

The 2018 Achilles Connecticut Hope & Possibility® 5K/10K presented by Cigna was a most joyous event! The early morning rain led many people to stay in bed, but those who braved the elements saw the sky clear in time for the start of the 10K and 5K races and the rain held off until the raffles and award winners were announced. 

Above , L-R: Wendy Sherry, President, Cigna Connecticut, delivered the opening remarks on behalf of the presenting sponsor. Achilles NJ athlete Barbara Brown, flanked by CT guides Kevin Looney and Wendy Sherry; Full Circle: Author and inspirational speaker, Colleen Kelly Alexander and Erin Spaulding, president of Achilles CT, both of whom were trauma patients at Gaylord Hospital, savor the moment. Colleen shared her story at the pre-race dinner and in her new book "Gratitude in Motion".

Achilles Germany successfully held their 7th Annual Hope and Possibility® Run on July 22nd, 2018. It was a dry summer this year, but it rained non-stop from start to end on race day! Congratulations to all who finished in the rain and mud! Special thanks for the volunteers for their undaunted efforts and making this possible for our runners. 

Go Achilles Germany!


The Achilles Freedom Team was out in full force for the 16th Annual Hope and Possibility® weekend. We hosted 20 wounded, ill and injured servicemen and women and their caregivers; 9 current inpatients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at Bethesda and 11 Freedom Team alumni. The team was escorted swiftly through the city streets by New York's finest with the NYPD's Highway 1 Unit throughout the weekend. All were welcomed and generously hosted by the dedicated members and staff from the historic Union League Club. Between a speedboat ride on the Hudson (everyone, ride The Beast this summer!) and a profoundly moving visit to the 9/11 Museum and the sacred grounds at Memorial Park, the team enjoyed NYC hospitality throughout the weekend. Our immense thanks to Achilles board member and Union League Club member, Sal Lifrieri for rallying our ULC family and hosting the Freedom Team so beautifully all weekend long. Thank you to our loyal sponsors from the GM Military Discount, U-Haul, Yankee Bus, the staff from Walter Reed and our incredible volunteers, athletes and caregivers for making this Hope & Possibility weekend so fun and inspiring! Check out a few of the memorable moments here.


The Achilles Freedom Team hosted 15 athletes in the San Diego Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday, June 3rd. Big thanks to the wonderful staff at Balboa Naval Medical Center, DAV Industries and the DAV Charitable Service Trust, the Bank of America Military Affinity Group and our new friends with IronMan for making it such a fun and successful weekend. Freedom Team athlete, Jess Walton, took first place in the handcycle division and all finished strong. We look forward to making the race experience even better for next year!


The Achilles Tri team has been taking this summer by storm! In the 2X New York City Triathlon, July 1st, thirty-five Achilles athletes and guides from seven countries participated and finished the race with four receiving awards: Alison Lynch, Charles Catherine, John Chan (all with Achilles NYC) and Shannon Cleave (Achilles New Zealand). A special shout-out to Tyler McNeil and Ricardo Corral who placed 1st and 2nd in the open division and to Kate Lawson who very nearly placed in her second triathlon. On July 7th, ten athletes and guides ventured over to Greenwich, CT, for their annual one-mile open-water swim. It was a beautiful day and despite more choppiness than some of us were expecting, all finished strong. Ricardo Corral took first place in his age group and Eliza Cooper finished second in hers. Four of our triathletes, who had qualified in April, traveled to the Paratriathlon National Championships in Wisconsin in late June. Neither John Chan nor Eliza Cooper had been to Nationals before and both came ready to give their all. Along with guides Benjamin Green and Bond Caldaro, John and Eliza won gold for visually impaired male and female, and, as a result, have just been granted spots on the USA Paratriathlon Development Team, which provides support and training to Para-triathletes with high potential for international competitions. We wish them the best of luck as they amp up their training and prepare to race in World Cup Races!


Earlier this month, our friends at NYU Langone and the Rusk Institute were kind enough to invite the Achilles NYC chapter to an advanced screening of the new motion picture, Skyscraper starring Dwayne ("The Rock") Johnson. Dwayne Johnson plays a former FBI agent and amputee who must rescue his family from a newly built skyscraper after it is taken over by terrorists and set on fire. The Achilles athletes and all others in attendance didn't realize they were in store for a huge treat when both Johnson and filmmaker Rawson Marshall Thurber made a surprise appearance (check it out here!)  at the conclusion of the screening! Johnson spoke of how honored he was to play the role and expressed how important it was and how he 'just didn't want to screw it up.' After taking questions from the audience, Johnson gave the crowd one more big thrill when he announced that all in attendance would receive a limited-edition Microsoft Xbox One game.

Michelob ULTRA is making its advertising images inclusive of all types of runners. Adding a little something else to the Chicago photo shoot in May are NYC chapter athletes Billy Davis and Abigail Lanier.

Achilles Washington DC is back! They will meet regularly on Sunday 9 am, Dupont Circle Metro Station, southern entrance near Panera Bread. Karla Gibride and Irwin Ramirez are co-leaders in this effort!

Mark Shortliffe

Congratulations to Mark Shortliffe, artist, guide and great friend to Achilles. It is such a privilege to get to know our guides through these profiles. Thank you so much Mark for everything you do for Achilles.

"Prior to Achilles, I didn't really know anyone with traumatic brain injuries, amputations, vision loss, autism, etc. So, my nervousness was based in not knowing what to do. I didn't figure how generously athletes would say hello and guide me into learning about how they run and live. It has been a beautiful education that has truly grown my family. To say I have been inspired is not enough, although, of course, I have been. I have learned so much about what is possible in the world and in myself." - Mark Shortliffe

To read more about Mark's amazing life and work with Achilles, please  click here.

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

Achilles Colombia actively participated in the Bogota Half Marathon on July 30th winning in the following categories: Pushrim, handcycle and Prosthetic running. The Chapter, together with the United for Colombia Foundation, was in charge of all athletes with disabilities and their logistics. This is the biggest running event in Colombia with 20,000 runners in half- marathon and over 10,000 runners 21K race. Throughout the years Achilles Colombia helped hundreds of people to obtain prosthetic and involved them into running! We are proud of you! Go Achilles Colombia!




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