ACHILLES (ADULT) VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH
How and when did you first hear about Achilles?
I heard of Achilles through my friend and Achilles member Michael Ring in 2016.
When did you first become a volunteer/guide?
I became a volunteer guide in 2016.
What has that experience been like for you?
It was very exciting and rewarding to guide an athlete for the first time.
Describe one or two special memories being an Achilles volunteer/guide.
That was the first-time guiding James McEnroe for the Brooklyn Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon where he set his Personal Record for his half marathon @ 2:31.
Please name one or two athletes you have guided.
I have guided Jenny Hwang and John Pierre.
Is there anything you would like to bring to the public's attention about being an Achilles Guide?
The public should be educated on social cues and needs of Athletes with Special Needs.
Mention a little about your own background.
I was born and raised in Malaysia, residing in Brooklyn since 1994. I am a licensed Special Education Middle school teacher. I am also an ultra-trail runner. I like to paint rock and wood during my free time.
ACHILLES KIDS VOLUNTEER OF THE MONTH:
LAUREN LANG & ADAM SHELEPAK
How and when did you first hear about Achilles Kids?
We first heard about Achilles Kids in January 2018. We both had just moved to New York City after college, and we were looking to find a community in New York City. We first found Achilles Kids through New York Cares. We are both avid runners and enjoy working with kids, and we thought the organization would be a good fit. After volunteering the first time, we fell in love with the program and kept coming back.
When did you first become an Achilles Kids volunteer?
We began volunteering in the brisk January weather in 2018, and it only continued to get better from there.
What has that experience been like for you?
Our experience with Achilles Kids has been inspiring and rewarding. The athletes, families, and other volunteers continually inspire us with the amazing community that Achilles has built. It's incredible watching our athletes achieve new goals whether it's an extra lap around the bridle path, a little bit farther in the gait trainer or another week of putting one foot in front of the other -- we always walk away each week in awe of this community.
Describe a few special memories you have of being an Achilles Kids volunteer.
Adam: All of the races are always amazing. They provide an opportunity for the Achilles Kids athletes to show off their training and abilities to the broader New York running community. Finishing any race is an achievement and crossing the finish line is always a special moment.
Lauren: This year at the Hope & Possibility® race, I ran with Ravi and his amazing family. We were on the hill part of the race, and I was helping Ravi in the gait trainer. As we always do, our group was cheering on Ravi. Other runners who have never met Ravi went out of their way to cheer for this incredibly inspiring athlete along with us. Sandra, Ravi's mom, took pictures during our run. She sent one from this part of the race, and you can see the joy on Ravi's face.
What does being a volunteer for Achilles Kids mean to you?
Being a volunteer is about helping the Achilles Kids train and become better runners. In practice, the volunteer role means much more than that. From week to week, a volunteer guides the athletes as they grow, become stronger, and gain confidence in their abilities. Being a volunteer is more about being there to support their growth and experiences.
When there are a million things you could be doing on a Saturday morning here in NYC, what keeps you coming back?
Easy, the community. From our first day at Achilles Kids, we could feel the love, kindness and strength of this community. Our athletes are the most amazing kids you could ever meet, and the families are some of the nicest people we have met in New York City. Angie, Carolyn, Karen and all of the New Cares Team Leaders put in so much effort and energy into the program which makes us want to come back every week. Any time before or during a run where you feel tired or cold, we just think of kids we are running with and how they keep trudging forward. It inspires us to do the same. We couldn't think of a better way to spend our Saturdays.
If someone was interested in volunteering for Achilles Kids, what would you tell them?
To anyone interested, we highly recommend signing up for one of the Central Park workouts. If you try it out, you will be welcomed and probably end up loving the experience and being inspired as we were our first time. We both find ourselves recommending that our colleagues and friends join the program. If you are nervous about running, be transparent about your running abilities; there are athletes that run 7-minute miles for extended periods and there are walkers. Everyone can find a fit!
Mention a little about your background.
Adam: I am proudly from Upstate New York. I grew up in the Binghamton area and went to college in the region. I moved to New York City after graduating, and I work in management consulting across a variety of industries. I live in Yorkville on the Upper East Side. Outside of Achilles, I love cooking new meals, reading anything I can find, trying my best to finish weekend crossword puzzles, and watching Jeopardy re-runs.
Lauren: I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio. I came to the east coast for college (where I met Adam on my move-in day and began dating him three years later). After graduation, I lived in San Francisco for a short while before moving to New York City. I work as an implementation consultant for an enterprise software company called Workday. I will be heading to law school in the fall. Outside of Achilles, I love running, traveling around the world, and reading a good book in the park.
Anything else you might like to add?
Sadly, we are moving to Washington D.C. in late August. :( We are going to miss Achilles Kids so much, but we hope to volunteer during our visits to New York. Thank you all for the amazing memories over the past year and half!!!