Volunteer of the Month

Achilles has some of the most amazing volunteers, many of whom have been with us for years! We want to recognize them here every month. To nominate someone, please email Fiona.  

This month, we highlight volunteer Mary Crouch!

How and when did you first hear about Achilles?
I stumbled upon Achilles after just moving to New York in 2012. I googled “where to find a locker and run in Central Park” and came across Achilles Tuesday night schedule at New York Road Runners. I was immediately hooked.

When did you first become a volunteer / guide?
I became a volunteer guide in March, 2012, just a couple weeks after moving to New York. My intention was to only stay for a few months. But, becoming a part of Achilles and meeting such amazing people is a large part of why I have remained in New York.  

What has that experience been like for you?
Achilles is the most inspiring and motivating organization and experience I have been blessed to be a part of. I am continually amazed and inspired by the athletes and guides - from getting to meet new incredible and interesting people each week at the workouts, forming wonderful friendships, to seeing so many athletes reach incredible goals. Working as an occupational therapist, my goal is to maximize each individual’s independence despite what their abilities or disabilities may be. Achilles is the ultimate example of showing the world what people are capable of when they set their mind to it.

Describe one or two special memories being an Achilles volunteer guide:
I have so many wonderful memories from Achilles. As a new guide I met the amazing Leol Williams, a visually impaired, multi-talented and experienced marathoner. Somehow he convinced me that I could run a marathon and I went on to guide him in two. Finishing the Philadelphia Marathon with Leol, and another guide Jeana Takahashi, was one of the most amazing and emotional memories I’ve ever had. Training for a goal that seems so far away and attaining it, not for yourself but someone else, was so powerful. From Central Park runs, to snow-tubing, sailing on the Hudson, happy hours, and post-run brunches and evenings at Rathbones, I hold many Achilles friends and memories dear!

Please name one or two athletes you have guided:
I had the honor of training for the NYC Marathon with Leol Williams in the fall of 2012 and when it was cancelled last minute due to Hurricane Sandy, that didn’t stop him… we ran the Philadelphia Marathon two weeks later. I also guided Leol in the the New York City Half Marathon and the NYC Marathon in 2013. I guided my good friend Ben Simmons in the NYC Half Marathon in 2014, and although we had trained regularly together, during the race Ben stepped up his speed, while I struggled to keep up! I was humbled and inspired by him and thankfully we finished it together with another guide, Greg Cho.  
Is there was anything you would like to bring to the public's attention about being a guide for Achilles what would it be?
It may seem intimidating to show up and guide a stranger with a disability, but Achilles is so welcoming and we all help each other. There is something for everyone of all abilities. Sometimes it feels selfish how rewarding it is to be a part of Achilles, a small part of something huge. 
Mention a little about your own background: where you are from? How long you have lived in NYC? What your work entails? Any other special interests or hobbies?
I grew up in Arkansas as the youngest of four children in a very loving family. I was never much of an athlete. I was more of a music, theater and dance kid. I went to college at St. Louis University in Missouri where I studied Music, Vocal Performance, and Occupational Therapy, and went on to complete my Master’s Degree. Since then I have worked as an Occupational Therapist in many different settings, and a handful of different cities across the country. I grew up volunteering with people with disabilities and have been able to volunteer abroad living for a short time in Guatemala. I have traveled to different countries to donate wheelchairs with “The American Wheelchair Mission”. These experiences have made me more amazed by Achilles athletes and grateful for the opportunities that are available and supported in America, and especially New York for people with disabilities. I work with children with special needs in a clinic and a school in Brooklyn. While I still don’t consider myself a natural athlete, Achilles has helped me reach my goals, while enjoying the camaraderie of running with fellow Achilles guides and athletes.
 

Read more about our volunteer program.