I love all that the Reeve Foundation has to offer and I hold Team Reeve very close to my heart. In 2005 Sam Maddox, Henry Stifel III, Linda Campbell and myself decided to put together a team of runners for the NYC Marathon. As employees and board members we wanted to give back to the Reeve Foundation in a personal way. That first year we were a small group of runners, about 20 of us in total. I was the solo handcyclist, having never rode a handcycle before let alone run a marathon. Sam traveled from California, Henry cheered us on the sidelines and Linda, a former employee gathered friends and family to raise money in honor of her dad’s fight with paralysis.
Our simple idea grew and grew; today it involves several marathons, not just the NYC Marathon. One thing however has not changed; folks run and raise money because they believe in the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. Many runners have a personal connection to paralysis so their efforts are personal and are often a way to give back to the Reeve Foundation for the help that they have received.
Each year I try to write about one athlete whose story is special and close to my heart. It was a tough choice this year because we have so many return runners who keep giving and giving. I would like to share Zach’s story with you and ask you to consider supporting his efforts to support the Reeve Foundation.
Almost three years ago I received a call from Sherry Masters about her son Zach (pictured). She went to his apartment to bring him a birthday cake and found him paralyzed on his floor, dragging himself from room to room. In that moment, Sherry and Zach’s lives changed as did the lives of everyone close to them. Sherry immediately got Zach into her car and into the hospital. The weeks that followed were a whirlwind of specialists trying to sort out why Zach could not move. Tests were done, a spinal cord biopsy completed, MRI’s, lab work the list went on and on. The doctors paraded in and out and when they were unable to make a diagnosis, a new team started over again.
Exhausted and seeking answers, Sherry called the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center. She was assisted with information, resources and how to select a rehabilitation center along with given tools to navigate the medical system. Sherry called regularly as Zach was in no shape to call for himself. The medical community was unable to provide answers but the Reeve Foundation provided hope, as well as guidance to assist Zach in returning to his life. Three years later there is still no answer on the cause of Zach’s paralysis. In the end, Sherry and Zach realized that they had to let the anger, frustration and desire to find the answer go in order to allow Zach to move forward with his life.
In one of our many conversations, Sherry shared how active Zach was in skiing, scuba diving and boating. I assured here these things could still be true and told her about Team Reeve and the opportunity it gave individuals with paralysis to compete in a marathon. I challenged Sherry that if Zach wanted, it was possible for him to be on Team Reeve within two years of his paralysis. Never one to back down from a challenge, Zach tried the handcycle, loved it and began riding almost as soon as he left rehabilitation. Last year, almost 2 years after his paralysis began, Zach rode in the NYC Marathon as an unofficial member of Team Reeve. This year, Zach is an official member of Team Reeve/Achilles.
Zach’s life has changed in many ways but he has continued to go forward. He resumed skiing, kayaking, finished college and is now preparing to take the LSAT exam in hopes of going to law school.
The Master’s family has continued to give back to the Reeve Foundation so that others can receive help. In November 2010, Sherry and her daughter Tara stood in the blustery cold and cheered on Team Reeve members. The Master’s family returned last year in full force and with friends to cheer on Zach and fellow Team Reeve members. They will be found at 4 different locations during this years NYC Marathon cheering not only Zach but all of Team Reeve.
After Hurricane Sandy, the NYC marathon was questionable. The city has been ravaged by a force that brought massive destruction and change. Paralysis and spinal cord injury are similar to Hurricane Sandy……your body is ravaged, often changed forever and your future seems uncertain. Like Zach, NYC has survived and it will recover. If paralysis could not hold Zach back, then why should Hurricane Sandy? Please consider helping Zach Master’s reach his goal for Team Reeve NYC Marathon.
You can donate here.
Everyday I wake up is a good one.