Challenged Athletes Foundation to Host Its Celebration of Heart Gala at Home

Unique Cocktail Experience and Moving Program to raise funds in Northern California and beyond to empower individuals with physical challenges through sports

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, June 15, 2021 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) will host A Celebration of Heart gala virtually on June 17. Hosted by Bay Area sportscasters Laura Britt and Therese Viñal, the extraordinary program will showcase the healing and transformational power of sports. This year’s unique evening will include an exclusive cocktail experience and share the power of sport through a moving program of athlete stories and pay tribute to an important member of the athletic community. The at-home experience will bring the community together to raise funds in support of the CAF mission - and empower the next generation of challenged athletes. For over 27 years, CAF has raised over $134 million and funded over 35,000 grants to athletes with physical challenges of all ages and abilities, in all 50 states and over 52 countries. 

“We are thrilled to showcase the triumphs, accomplishments, and passion of the Bay Area CAF community,” says Alan Shanken, gala co-chairman, CAF board member.  “As a challenged athlete myself, it is imperative that we help build inclusion and reassurance that these athletes are not alone and welcomed, despite their differences.”

Broadcasting live from The Purple Patch Performance Center in San Francisco, the event will begin at 6:00 pm with an exclusive interactive cocktail and culinary experience hosted by Montana-based CAF athlete and professional chef, Eduardo Garcia. Known all over the world as the “Bionic Chef”, Garcia cooks with a prosthetic left arm, the result of a hunting accident in 2011. At 6:45 pm, hosts Therese Viñal (SF Giants) and Laura Britt (SF 49ers) will showcase CAF’s programming as gala guests feel the impact of the CAF mission with the stories of resilience, strength, and spirit during the pandemic. 

Guests will be moved by stories of overcoming adversity, discovering adaptive sports for the first time, and a recent surprise moment with the Golden State Warriors for a local CAF teen who survived multiple gun wounds at the age of seven. The at-home gala will continue with CAF athlete, Breezy Bochenek singing alongside The Well-Known Strangers, who have a personal connection to CAF.

The evening will feature stories of heroic and triumphant challenged athletes including:

Carolanne Link (25) of Oakland, CA -- Born with Cerebral Palsy and surrounded by an incredibly athletic family, Carolanne always sat on the sidelines watching. It wasn’t until she was an adult, that she was invited to try wheelchair basketball and saw it as a rebirth. Trying to reclaim lost time she has thrown herself into the parasports world and playing a team sport for the first time in her life, shattering her misconception that she couldn’t be an athlete.  Carolanne feels unstoppable and wants to continue on the path of pushing herself to her fullest athletic potential. She dreams of becoming a Paralympian and with tenacity and determination, she hopes to compete in Paris 2024.

Lucas Cronan (6) of Sacramento, CA -- At the age of one, Lucas had his leg amputated due to a congenital condition called fibular hemimelia. An active boy, he enjoys riding his bike, swimming and running. Wanting to increase his speed, he frequently takes his prosthetic off just so he can run faster. CAF and Shriners Hospital for Children orchestrated a very special surprise for Lucas to receive an Össur running blade so he can race his dad and keep up with his friends at school.

The gala will also pay tribute to Tom Trauger, CFO of Sports Basement, who tragically lost his life in a bike crash last December. Tom was an incredible part of the athletic community, a CAF supporter, and Everyman Jack mentor. With his wife, Donna, CAF will honor his legacy by raising funds to support the mission. 

Through CAF’s 2021 grant distribution, challenged athletes in 49 states, Puerto Rico and 52 countries have recently received a variety of grants representing $5.1 million in support. Each individual has a unique personal story, and without this critical funding, participation in sports would be unattainable due to the general lack of insurance coverage for adaptive sports equipment and limited opportunities for these individuals to practice and compete. 

To experience this empowering night of sport, you can watch the event free of charge here:

Media Kit: Dropbox Images and Promo Video here.

We graciously thank the following sponsors for supporting this gala and CAF’s mission: Kristin Roth DeClark, Alison & Michael Mauze, Sixth Street, Spinner Family, Larry & Tania Albukerk, Devon & Pete Briger, Alan Shanken & Allison Caccoma. Marj & Tom Callinan, Kate & Bill Duhamel, Marvell, Stephanie & Bill Mellin, The Charles E Moore Charitable Fund, Lotte & Sarah Real Estate, Mekhala & Michel Oltramare, Viansa, Mark Bregman, Vicki & Jim Click, ColRich, Christopher Golec, Robin Hauser, The Holloway & Price Families, Purple Patch Fitness, William Turner Gallery, and Susan Walsh & Don Smith.

About the Challenged Athletes Foundation

The Challenged Athletes Foundation® (CAF) is a world leader in helping people with physical challenges lead active, healthy lifestyles. CAF believes that participation in physical activity at any level increases self-esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.  Since 1994, more than $134 million has been raised and over 35,000 funding requests from people with physical challenges in all 50 states and dozens of countries have been satisfied. Additionally, CAF’s outreach efforts impact another 60,000 individuals each year. Whether it’s a $2,500 grant for a handcycle, helping underwrite a carbon fiber running foot not covered by insurance, or arranging enthusiastic encouragement from a mentor who has triumphed over a similar challenge, CAF’s mission is clear: give opportunities and support to those with the desire to live active, athletic lifestyles. To learn more, visit or call 858-866-0959.


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Bay Area sportscasters Laura Britt and Therese Viñal to host the 2021 Celebration of Heart gala at home. The Challenged Athletes Foundation's extraordinary program will showcase the healing and transformational power of sports.

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