Monday, November 5, 2007
INDIANAPOLIS---The NCAA Honors Committee has named James MacLaren as the 2008 Inspiration Award winner.
Two years ago, MacLaren established a philanthropic organization with a mission of impacting those in need through inspiration, compassion and accessibility, and providing children, adults and families with the tools to help them engage life at every level. He named it Choose Living.
If anyone knows about choosing to live, it is MacLaren. Weeks after graduating from Yale in 1985, MacLaren, a football and lacrosse standout and a theatre studies major, was leaving a rehearsal in New York when his motorcycle was broadsided by a 40,000-pound city bus.
Although initially diagnosed as dead on arrival at the hospital, MacLaren was comatose, but stabilized, after 18 hours of surgery. Doctors also amputated his left leg below the knee.
MacLaren awakened from the coma determined to rehabilitate his body. Eventually, he resumed his athletics pursuits, this time as a tri-athlete.
The Award of Valor and Inspiration Award recipients are selected by the NCAA Honors Committee. Members of the committee are: Gene Corrigan, former Atlantic Coast Conference Commissioner Timothy W. Gleason, (chair) commissioner, Ohio Athletic Conference; Stephanie Harrison-Dyer, compliance coordinator, Albany State University (Georgia), Albany State University (Georgia); Calvin Hill, consultant, Jerry Jones and the NFL ’s Dallas Cowboys; Jackie Joyner-Kersee, former University of California, Los Angeles, track and field student-athlete and Olympian; Gibbs Knotts, faculty athletic representative, Western Carolina University; Julia Powers Ruppert, senior woman administrator and associate commissioner, America East Conference and Barbara Walker, senior associate director of athletics/senior woman administrator, Wake Forest University
“I never entered triathlons to compete. It was just to see what I could do,” MacLaren said.
As it turns out, there was a lot he could do. MacLaren went on to become the amputee world record holder in the Boston, Los Angeles and Hamburg Marathons and in the Ironman competition in Hawaii.
However, MacLaren’s life took another dark turn on June 6, 1993, when he collided with a van two miles into the bike leg of a triathlon in California. The impact hurled him into a signpost and he broke his neck at the C5 vertebrae. The accident left him paralyzed from the neck down and in a wheelchair.
The road to recovery was far tougher this time. But, MacLaren has once again battled back to reclaim some motor function of his limbs even though doctors said he would not regain movement below his neck.
MacLaren currently is a motivational speaker and has started a doctorate in mythology and depth psychology. His foundation, Choose Living, supports multiple organizations including the Challenged Athletes Foundation; Camp Good Days and Special Times, the nation’s largest cancer camp for children; and efforts to assists disabled people in Ghana and around the world.
MacLaren said he’s honored by being named as an NCAA Inspiration Award winner, but he doesn’t feel special.
“I feel like I’m a 44-year-old work in progress,” he said. “Now I get to take all those years of being a competitive athlete and not only be honored with this award, but this award honors me because it stands for more than being an athlete.”
The NCAA Inspiration Award is presented to a current or former coach, administrator or varsity letter-winner who, when confronted with a life-altering situation used perseverance, dedication and determination to overcome the event and now serves as a role model to give hope and inspiration to others in similar situations.
The Award of Valor and the Inspiration Award are not automatically presented on an annual basis.