Above:  Trisha Meili cheering on athlete at the 
2016 Hope & Possibility® 4 Miler.
(Photo courtesy of Larry Sillen
Achilles Heel
July - August 2016
What a glorious day! Sunday June 26th, marked our 14th Hope & Possibility® Race in Central Park. As one of the few people who competed in all 14 races, I have seen it grow from a few hundred at the beginning to a sold-out mega race with over 7,300 entrants this year.
One of the big differences between Achilles and many other organizations is our focus on mainstreaming. This is what Hope & Possibility is about. It's the concept of people with disabilities integrating with the general population. Years before Achilles was created, someone with a disability was hidden from the world. There was no such thing as integration or mainstreaming. There was awkwardness around a person with a disability. How do you address them? Is it okay to talk about their disability? Do we even call it a "disability" or a "handicap?" Is it appropriate to touch someone's wheelchair? It was unclear and very confusing. There was even the fear that certain disabilities might be contagious? And worse perhaps is how others often spoke to, and about, that person as if they were a child. Someone whose disability included difficulty speaking, for instance, was often considered intellectually delayed. We had a lot to learn.
Our Hope & Possibility Race is a perfect example of how far we have come and how Achilles helps to create change. This year, we had close to 1,000 runners and walkers with disabilities competing shoulder-to-shoulder with over 5,000 able-bodied runners and walkers. Children and adults with various disabilities - in wheelchairs, handcycles, walkers, on prosthetics, some whose disability was not so obvious on the outside - all competing with others and it was not a big deal. No one stopped and stared at the person with a disability. No one gasped. Many of our amputee soldiers wore short pants. They are proud of what they have achieved. There is no longer shame or embarrassment. That pride shows in everyday moments like when Achilles member Tammy Duckworth was recently elected to congress. She appeared in a picture in the New York Times with a short skirt. She was proud of her artificial legs. The beauty of mainstreaming - our focus - is the exposure of disability to everyone. People without disabilities see us and become comfortable; people with disabilities become comfortable too. The differences are a lot less.
We have come a very long way in the past 14 years! Sunday June 26th, was a testament to that. What a glorious, glorious day! This was by far my favorite Hope & Possibility. It is a race that has become the flagship for many other H&P races within the US and around the world. Go 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.

Achilles sends its deepest appreciation to Hope & Possibility® title sponsors GM Military Discount, GM Buy Power Card and Cigna, as well as sponsors Goldman Sachs and the Bob Woodruff Foundation

Our sponsors made the race registration area so much fun and exciting--from GM's awesome photo booth to Cigna's futuristic looking tent! Deepest thanks also to Mark Degnan whose General Motors Military Discount Team raised over $30,000! We are lucky to have sponsors who are truly part of the Achilles family! 

Among the competitors toeing up to the starting line were the racers from Achilles Kids. After training for months in Central Park the kids were so excited to participate in the 4-Mile race. We had 25 runners in the four and 1.5 mile races. Thanks to Shake Shack for donating custard for the kids to enjoy post-race. Team Cigna served as guides for the children, making the experience that much more special. Thanks also to our volunteers, especially NY Cares Team Leader Rich Marino as well as the always amazing Angie Bullaro, Carolyn Wynne, Theresa Molloy and Christa Ursini and the amazing ladies from the I Am More Foundation

Members of the Cigna Achilles Customer Referral Program Tsi Tsi Merritt, Marchell DeNeal and Belinda Manuel traveled from far and near to join us in the race (Marchell from Texas, Belinda from Florida and Tsi Tsi proudly represented the great borough of Brooklyn.) Our Cigna customers bring spirit and heart to the race and it is our honor to host them. They truly embody the spirit of Hope & Possibility and their hard work and dedication in preparing for the race inspires us. Deepest thanks to the customers, their friends and families and especially their guides, Angelica Greene, Bridget Ryder, Jaclyn Sphon, and, earning an "A" for effort for trying to keep up with speed demon Tsi Tsi, Mike Musco for making this year's race extra memorable. 

There were many special additions to this year's Hope & Possibility that made it the best yet! Sofia D'Angelo gave the crowd shivers with her beautiful rendition of our nation's national anthem. Caroline KaczorSarah Leingang, and Rebecca Alexander led a terrific and pulse quickening pre-race warm up. All three then hopped in the race and were a vision in blue! They didn't stop there - Sarah coordinated the Lululemon shopping experience donation for the silent auction at the post-race brunch; Rebecca, who is both visually and hearing impaired, donated a copy of her book: "Not Fade Away: A Memoir of Senses Lost and Found." Another hot item at the auction - the SoulCycle five-class pass donated by Eliza Rothman, SoulCycle's Charity Coordinator. The brunch was held at Dorrian's Red Hand and we send deepest thanks to Jimmy Dorrian and John Bondurant for their support. Thanks also to Nanci FerrariReilly Starr, and Dahlia Gutierrez for their hard work in making the brunch a success. 

The common thread uniting all of these super stars is the inimitable Mary Koutrakos. From organizing the talent roster to overseeing every detail of the brunch, Mary is a one of a kind gem. We could not be more fortunate to have her on our board and in our corner. Mary - you are the epitome of greatness and we thank our lucky stars you are ours!

We are grateful to the many VIPs whose presence made the race day that much more exciting. Famed weatherman and running aficionado Mr. G, Achilles board chair and former NY Governor David Paterson and the hilarious Jon Stewart welcomed all the runners. Michael Sturmer, Cigna Operations Senior Director and Susan Walton, Manager, Vehicle Purchase Programs at General Motors, delivered moving and inspiring pre-race words of wisdom. 

Of course, Hope & Possibility would not be Hope & Possibility without Trisha Meili. The race was inspired by her book: I am The Central Park Jogger: A Story of Hope & Possibility. Trisha's resilience and fortitude have inspired thousands of people to overcome adversity and rise above the challenges they face. As the founding board chair of Achilles, Trisha's leadership and wisdom have helped our organization thrive. We are deeply grateful to her for her continued support of our mission and for embodying those two most important qualities, hope and possibility. 

For helping everything come together, for their endless patience, their desire to collaborate to make each event better than the last, and their commitment to inclusion for athletes with disabilities, we send our deepest thanks to NYRR's Peter Ciaccia, Michael Capiraso, Courtney Arbour, Paul Ortolano and Lori Lavine.

Mark your calendars! Cigna is sponsoring Hope & Possibility in Hartford Connecticut August 21!

The Achilles Freedom Team was out in full force for the 14th Annual Hope & Possibility® weekend. We hosted 18 wounded and injured servicemen and women; 15 current inpatients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center; 3 Walter Reed alumni. Starting with a speedboat ride on the Hudson (everyone, ride The Beast this summer!) and a special visit to the 9/11 Museum, the team enjoyed NYC hospitality throughout the weekend. 

Our immense thanks to the generous members of the Union League Club for hosting the team and their families all weekend long. Thank you to our GM Military Discount family, Yankee Bus, and the staff at Walter Reed for making this Hope & Possibility weekend so powerful and inspiring.

Also heartfelt thanks to our loyal friend and military supporter, Jon Stewart for coming out to participate with the team and honor all of the Achilles athletes.  Looking forward to next year already!!


Haki Doku - a member of Achilles Italy is in the Guinness Book of Records for the Greatest distance covered in 12 hours in a manual wheelchair. On June 12th 2016, Haki broke another Guinness record in Frankfurt, Germany by descending 61 floors-1,202 stairs--in 30 minutes in his wheelchair. Haki Doku is also competing in 10 marathons in 2016 to promote Achilles. He has already completed marathons in Rome, London and Paris. The final portion of this great challenge will be at the NYC Marathon in November.


If you were playing "Jeopardy" 7,198 would be the answer. The QUESTION would be - "how many Achilles Kids members completed the 26.2 mile "virtual" marathon and received a pair of Saucony sneakers?" 7,198!

Again - the question would be - how many miles did our Achilles Kids members rack up this year? 218,587.6 miles! That's almost the distance from the earth to the MOON! And WE are over the moon about how amazing our kids are. Amazing is a word that is used far too often these days. But the determination and dedication of our kids who ran/walked laps all throughout the year to reach - and in many cases - crush their goal of 26.2 miles is quite simply, AMAZING. 

Karen Lewis, Achilles Kids Director, had the privilege of attending sneaker presentations and "last lap" events in schools not just in New York City and Long Island but all over the eastern half of the U.S. What an incredible journey! Literally miles and miles of smiles. She had the thrill of seeing so many of our Achilles Kids cross the finish line and receive their hard-earned sneakers with tremendous joy, excitement and pride! Achilles is eternally grateful to all the teachers and staff members who not only make our program possible but who find a multitude of ways to add their own creative touch and make our program extra special for the kids. They have our heartfelt thanks and utmost gratitude. Lastly, we want to thank Saucony for once again giving us a significant discount on the awesome sneakers for our Achilles Kids marathoners. All 7,198 pairs!

Rebecca Noriega

Rebecca Noriega has been an Achilles volunteer since September 2014. She has guided John Pierre in the 2015 NYC Marathon and Jenny Hwang in the Bronx 10-Miler in addition to other races. Thank you, Rebecca!

"Life changing!" is how Rebecca describes being part of Achilles. " I now have much more insight into the dedication, time and energy it takes to be a runner.... If you have the slightest interest to join, do it! You won't regret it! Everyone here is incredible, devoted and genuinely beautiful people." Rebecca Noriega
To read more about Rebecca, please click here.

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


Achilles Boulder more than tripled the size of the disability field from their inaugural run in the BOLDER Boulder on the last weekend of May with 28 athletes and 29 guides taking part. Thanks to Adam Mayer and Annette Kissinger for leading the charge. 

Achilles CT has been busy!! On June 5th the chapter had a team of 40 athletes, guides and race day volunteers participate in the Amica Iron Horse Half Marathon, 10K & 5K. They were thrilled to have Patrick Miller from Achilles NYC Chapter join them! On June 25th, two Achilles CT teams participated in the Gaylord Gauntlet 5K (similar to a "Tough Mudder"), and the Faxon Law Fairfield 5K. On June 26th, they had members run in the Faxon Law Fairfield Half Marathon and in the Achilles Hope & Possibility® 4-miler in Central Park. Achilles CT welcomes other Chapters and Achilles members to participate in their 1st Annual Achilles Connecticut Hope & Possibility® presented by Cigna on August 21st. Trisha Meili will serve as Honorary Chair and speak the night before the race in partnership with Fleet Feet Sports. Hotel rooms are available for out-of-state participants. Click here for more information and registration!  

Under Ken Duke's leadership, Achilles Utah is thriving. The chapter made history being the first Achilles team to take part in the Wasatch Back Ragnar relay race, which is the relay that inspired the series. For those unfamiliar with the Ragnar, it is an overnight relay done in teams covering 188 miles. This course began in Northern Utah in the city of Logan and traversed across the back of Utah's rough and tough Wasatch Mountains. Thirteen awesome Achilles athletes and 12 Achilles guides completed the Ragnar with a team record of 39:20. It is the first time an all-Achilles team has run any of the 35 Ragnar relays in the United States. Check out press coverage of this great event!

July 24th: Panasonic NYC Tri

August 21stAchilles CT first Annual Hope & Possibility® Race presented by Cigna.



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