650 miles on the 19th Annual Achilles resistance relay wrapped up on July 10 with 4,000 runners racing through New York’s Central Park.

The message, which began on June 26, led The Achilles Freedom team, a group of sick and / or injured veterans, a legally blind runner Eric Strong conquering the gap 44 miles east of Charlotte.

The participants in the message — runners, walkers, and cyclists — began moving east across North Carolina and Virginia toward Washington DC. On June 28, the route extended to 128 miles, Louisa, VA, Arlington, VA.

The Achilles Freedom team was honored at an event on June 30, attended by former U.S. President George W. Bush, in a conversation with David Cordan, CEO of Cigna Corporation, in Washington DC.

“Demonstrating courage on the battlefield, they often return home with injuries – both visible and invisible – that add to the challenges of transitioning to civilian life.” Bush said. “Together, we spend an elite group of veterans who, through their perseverance and athletic accomplishments, teach us that when we face adversity, we can transcend the limits of opportunity.”

Among the hero stories of Achilles Freedom is the captain of the US Army (Ret.) Holly Koester, whose military career ended when he received a permanent injury in the service. “When I first got injured, I thought my active life was over,” Koester said. “After discovering the types of wheelchairs, I realized it was clearly as far from the truth as one could imagine.” The tester, a proud dog enthusiast, became the first person to run a complete marathon in all 50 states in a pushrim chair.

Jenny Hwang, From the state of Queens, NY, was born with Retinitis pigmentosa and lost most of her sight in 2002. In 2013, “The Daredevil” discovered Achilles and started a new cycle of running and ran the Paris Marathon in 2018.

The 650-mile course culminated on July 10 – the 31st anniversary of the signing of the Disability Americans Act – at the 4-mile Achilles Hope event through Central Park, hosted by the New York Road Runners. Among the public ambassadors were comedian Jon Stewart, former New York Giants who ran back to Tiki Barber, and ABC News reporter Deborah Roberts.

“You have inspired not only myself during these years, but the whole country as we wake up … to opportunities and hope for everything we can achieve.” Stewart said.

Achilles International is a global organization that changes the lives of people with disabilities through sports programs and social connections. The message campaign has raised more than $ 109,000; donations can be made here.

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