FOREWORD In any true-life story filled with emotion, as Jim MacLaren’s certainly is, facts are a necessity. They establish context; they provide a frame of reference.
For those of you not yet familiar with Jim’s story, I hope this background and the tragic and triumphant milestones of his incredible and incredulous life journey will give you perspective. I regret never having the honor of meeting Jim, but since becoming friends with his sister, Jennifer, he has become a part of my life and a source of inspiration. I believe, by the end of this book, you will feel as though you knew him personally, too. Jim was gifted. He had it all—brains, brawn, creativity, and athleticism. As a buff 6'5'', 300-pound student at Yale University, he excelled at lacrosse and was a standout All-American defensive tackle on the football team. Academically, he more than held his own, and he showed great promise in his acting pursuits at Yale School of Drama. These are not opinions; they are facts. In October 1985, Jim was driving his motorcycle in New York City when a 40,000-pound New York City bus hit him. The accident cost Jim his left leg below the knee. Jim reinvented his life after the accident in 1985. He trained with determination and set records as an amputee athlete in the New York City marathon (3:16) and the Ironman Hawaii (10:42). Jim also began his tour as a motivational speaker, inspiring others challenged with disabilities. While competing in the Orange County Performing Arts Triathlon in Mission Viejo, California in June 1993, Jim met another tragic fate. Officials misjudged his speed on the bike course and allowed a van to cross in front of him. That van struck Jim, propelling him into a signpost. The doctors told him he was a quadriplegic and would never feel anything or move from the chest down for the rest of his life. Jim defied the odds, tackling rehab with abandon and gaining a degree of motor control and independence the doctors did not think would be possible for him. Much of that was as a result of the generosity of several of his triathlete friends who created the Challenged Athletes Foundation and held the first San Diego Triathlon Challenge, which raised $48,000—$23,000 over the goal of $25,000— to buy Jim a vehicle he could drive with just his hands. Jim resumed his career as a motivational speaker. All the while, however, he fought to overcome unrelenting depression and pain. Enduring a battle with cocaine addiction, Jim came close to losing everything and everyone. Fortunately, through rehab, renewed focus, and the help of family and friends who would not give up on him, Jim conquered those demons. In 2005, Jim received the Arthur Ashe Courage Award at the annual ESPYS ceremony in Los Angeles. Jim MacLaren died as a result of complications from an illness on August 31, 2010 at the age of 47. Although he has left us physically, his legacy of humanity and inspiration live on. You will find this book evidence of that as you read what others have to say about what Jim taught them about facing adversity and making life meaningful, even when it has become something far removed from what you envisioned it would be. – Dawn Mentzer