The Challenged Athlete's Foundation gave the gift of mobility to one law enforcement officer injured in the line of duty and gathered fellow athletes for its upcoming 26th annual triathlon. The beloved San Diego-based nonprofit helps people with permanent physical challenges get back into sports.
One Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy stressed the organization is also helping police get back on the job. Deputy Garrett Rifkin is part of this growing club of athletes each with a story to tell.
"He left me in the street, it was a hit and run. I had to crawl off to the side and wait for the paramedics,” Rifkin told NBC 7.
On his way to work in August 2018, deputy Rifkin was broadsided while riding his motorcycle. Three weeks later doctors amputated his right leg.
Insurance helped pay for a basic prosthesis, but Rifkin credits his donated Össur running blade as a game changer in getting back to work. The running blade, which allows for better mobility, was not covered by insurance.
“Losing a leg, I thought it would be a lot harder to get back to work. But with the blade and with the technology, there’s not a lot that I can’t do anymore,” Rifkin said. “I can still run, jump, get in and out of a patrol car, do everything I used to do."
“Whether it's going to a hot call or just walking the stairs into the station the blade just makes it easier cause it's light and can move better and more dynamic," Rifkin added.
Insurance companies consider these blades a luxury on paper, but athletes say they are critical to becoming active again. The financial barrier arises from their high prices in the tens of thousands of dollars.
For more than 20 years, Össur has partnered with the Challenged Athlete's Foundation, hosting mobility clinics like the one on Saturday to help people make the most of their new legs. Össur also routinely donate prostheses to people who need them.
Rifkin received his blade last year and on Saturday he was in on the next surprise reveal.
Police officer Claudia Cormier traveled to San Diego from San Marcos, Texas for the event.
A suspected drunk driver hit Cormier in May while she was in the line of duty causing her to lose one of her legs. Rifkin's 4-month recovery gave Cormier reason for optimism.
Hands over her mouth, Cormier was thrilled when she received her new leg and said she was not expecting the surprise at all.
"They said recovery time is a year and a half to two years. I want to beat that. I want to be back sooner than that, maybe a year,” Cormier said. “I want to wear it!"
Rifkin and Cormier are a pair of athletes who wear the badge, united through this club of resiliency.
“It means the world. I love to run,” Cormier told NBC 7.
It was a huge weekend for the Challenged Athlete's Foundation as they held their 26th annual triathlon in La Jolla.
CAF reported they raised over $2.7 million throughout all their fundraising events from 1,275 supporters.
“We had a tremendous turn-out this past weekend to see our mission in action and help support our future. We are very appreciative of our incredible fundraisers and sponsors who make it possible for more challenged athletes to gain access to sports,” said Virginia Tinley, Chief Executive Director.