I've always been an "idea" person, a problem solver, a visionary if you will, today, I like to think of myself as a social entrepreneur. Some people seem to think that the "idea" of The Ability Center (TAC) is just too big, too visionary, darn near impossible. I constantly remind those people that nothing starts out big, but it always begins with a big, or what the naysayers would call a "larger than life," vision. I use examples like Richard Branson's, Virgin or Sam Walton's, Walmart, or Dr. Gordy Klatt's, Relay for Life. Did you know that Richard Branson started what would become Virgin at the age of 16, which at that time was nothing more than a "youth culture" magazine titled, Student? Or, that Sam Walton's first store was a Ben Franklin that he purchased at the age of 26 and later became known as Walton's Five & Dime. Oh, and the American Cancer Society's, Relay for Life, originally known as the City of Destiny Classic 24-hour Run Against Cancer, was started by one man, Dr. Gordy Klatt who, alone, walked for 24 hours aroud the University of Puget Sound's track. Well, Student is now Virgin, consisting of over 400 companies worldwide from megastores to space travel. Walton's Five & Dime, as we all know, is Walmart with over 10,000 stores worldwide. And the Relay for Life now takes place in over 5,000 communities in 21 countries. These three visionaries went from nickles, dimes, subscriptions and a single walker to BILLIONS of dollars. By this point my guess is you're thinking something along the lines of the fact that Walton, Branson and Klatt started small, shouldn't TAC do the same? The answer is, we did.
The Ability Center started as SGS, or Super Gimp Services is 2006. In fact, for a short period of time it was known as Super Gimp Foundation. Hold on a minute -- You could even take SGS back to 2000, when my roommate was drawing a 3D wheelchair in motion within a diamond, the next day I tattooed a simpler version on my shoulder. And in the summer of 2000, the "Super Gimp" moniker was born. Now, my roommate, Rick, and I noticed that "Super Gimp" was bringing unlimted empowerment, motivation and inspiration to childhood cancer survivors with or without disABILITIES. The energy of being a "Super Gimp" actually had nothing to do with being disABLED, but everything to do with giving 200% of your heart and soul to everything you did to the best of your ability. We wanted to duplicate the "Super Gimp" spirit, its' natural empowerment, for the masses -- In 2006, "Super Gimp Services for disABLED Athletics" was founded to provide adaptive fitness and atheltics to people with physical disABILITIES. I was happy. We were happy. We were making noise and impacting lives -- but only with a name, a logo and moniker. The Services part of Super Gimp couldn't get off the ground because every location we attempted to start programming in was unavailable, inaccessible, and most often it was both. Without a place of our own, services would be impossible. Enter THE ABILITY CENTER. Enter a vision that would create a space for EVERYONE to have the opportunity to be fit, active and healthy. Enter a place where everyone can "play," any time.
So you see, TAC wasn't born yesterday. TAC didn't start as a multi-million dollar vision. But today it is exactly that. Why? Because individuals and children with physical and intellectual disABILITIES, and their families, deserve to experience and be a part of the same opportunities as their able-bodied peers, in the same glorious environment. So how does 50 equal 100,000 and 100,000 equal 200,000? Well it doesn't, but it will. Right now a combination of 50 donors have "purchased" 93 square feet of TAC. From individuals to corporations, from schools to churches, from Maryland to Georgia, California to New York -- these 50 donors believe in TAC -- those 50 donors will become 100,000 donors who will eventually purchase 200,000 square feet of TAC. Mark my words, The Ability Center will be built by a community, a community of 100,000 donors from across the United States. That community will be known as the "100,000 Strong for Ability," and together we will break ground on June 6th, 2013 and walk through its' doors in the fall of 2014 (our target dates). Will you be there? Are you donor 51? Will you be the "owner" of square foot 100,003? Will you help turn a disability into ABILITY? Become a part of the 100,000 Strong, as an individual, a family, a group or a corporation. Own one square foot or 100 square feet. The point is, TAC is going to take a community and we WANT it to be a community!
Nothing starts big. But everything big, does start with a vision. I hope you'll join my vision and help me become the Dr. Klatt of ability and the Richard Branson of philanthropy. A little advice for everyone, follow your dreams and IGNORE the naysayers. Dreams exist in your heart for a reason, no matter how scary or "unbelievable" they are, act on them, and miracles will be your for the tripping over. Everyday I remind myself that I should be dead, that I'm one-in-a-billion, that I defied the odds. You know what? I'm going to do it again!