The Courage to Go Forward Gala Honoring Achilles Athletes, Families and Volunteers Sets Fundraising Record
Cultural and sports icons gather to bring hope, inspiration and the joy of personal achievement to athletes of all abilities
- Event Raises $1.7 million to help strengthen and expand the Achilles mission
- Cigna President and CEO David Cordani recognized as Volunteer of the Year and Diego Lacayo as Outstanding Achilles Kid
New York, NY – November 21, 2019 – The 2019 Annual Achilles International Gala, named The Courage to Go Forward, raised more than $1.7 million in a single evening, making it the largest fundraising event in the organization’s history. Achilles International is dedicated to helping people with disabilities participate in mainstream athletic events. Co-hosted by The View’s Meghan McCain and ABC News correspondent, Deborah Roberts, the event featured remarks by notable philanthropists and humanitarians, National Basketball Association (NBA) Hall of Famer Earvin “Magic” Johnson along with actor, director and musician Gary Sinise and others.
During the event, Cigna President and CEO David Cordani was honored as Achilles International’s Volunteer of the Year for his years of service. For more than a decade, Cigna and its employees have partnered closely with Achilles International, supporting numerous local and national events. As a long-time running guide to wounded, ill or injured veterans on the Achilles Freedom Team, David provides emotional, mental and physical support by helping them accomplish their personal goals of completing competitive running events while racing on single or double prosthetics.
“Above all, the partnership between Achilles International and Cigna embraces the power of possibility,” said David. “I’m fortunate to work with so many outstanding colleagues who see the power of coming together and are motivated by helping people achieve their goals and live their best, healthiest lives. I was proud to accept the honor from Achilles International on behalf of our 74,000 colleagues around the world, because the recognition really belongs to them.”
At the event, Cigna announced that it will become the presenting sponsor of the Achilles Freedom Team, comprising wounded, ill or injured members of the U.S. Military. The event theme, The Courage to Go Forward, also recognized the best-selling book co-authored by David Cordani and Dick Traum, Founder of Achilles International and the first amputee to complete the New York City Marathon, in 1976. The book champions the power of micro communities, which are small groups of people coming together to help others achieve their goals.
“We are grateful to Cigna for its extraordinary support and are thrilled to have the opportunity to take our decade-long partnership to the next level. Achilles looks forward to continuing to work alongside Cigna to improve the lives of our nation's heroes. We appreciate how much this means to David and all of his Cigna colleagues,” said Emily Glasser, Executive Director of Achilles International.
Additionally, Achilles International honored Diego Lacayo as Outstanding Achilles Kid. Achilles Kids is a program that helps provide kids with disabilities the opportunity to exercise regularly and compete with other runners, helping them become stronger and healthier. Diego, who will be 19 next week, has developmental disabilities and low muscle tone. Since joining the team, Diego has become known around Achilles Kids’ workouts as “Flash,” a name evidenced by his 5:58 time at the 2019 Fifth Avenue Mile.
“Diego has contagious energy and an incredible sense of purpose,” said Karen Lewis, Director, Achilles Kids. “His friendly and enthusiastic personality brings joy to everyone, and over the years Diego has become a mentor to many of the younger Achilles athletes. He’s the epitome of the person we hope to grow at Achilles.”
About Achilles International
Achilles International is a global organization providing opportunities and support to people with disabilities interested in participating in mainstream athletic events. Through a portfolio of programs, Achilles encourages personal achievement, enhances self-esteem and breaks down barriers to living a fulfilling and healthy life. Since its founding, Achilles has served over 25,000 athletes with disabilities worldwide through 54 chapters in 35 countries. Nationally, the organization has 32 chapters in 24 states and the District of Columbia. For more information, visit www.achillesinternational.org .
MEDIA CONTACTS: Genna Griffith, Ph. 646-263-1825, Ellie Polack, Ph. 845-269-9224