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Kelly Brush Davisson
WILLING AND ABLE
You only had to check the clock. If it was any waking hour, Kelly Brush would be out doing something sporty—golf or tennis, soccer or lacrosse, surfing or skiing. But in February 2006 the clock temporarily stopped. As a Middlebury College sophomore carving down a giant slalom course, she caught an edge, pinwheeled off the trail and struck a lift tower. The blow bruised Kelly's spinal cord and fractured a vertebra in her neck and four ribs. After surgery and almost three months of rehab, she ended up in a wheelchair, paralyzed below the waist.
When Brush returned to school the following fall, the ski team held a charity bike ride to raise $10,000 for an adaptive mono-ski for her. The event exceeded its goal by $55,000, and Brush realized that such efforts could help launch the charitable organization she had vowed to establish during her rehab. "All these people—my boyfriend, teammates, friends—were still out there skiing," she says. "How could I not do something to try to keep it safe and make something good come out of my injury? I really just wanted to protect my friends."
The Kelly Brush Foundation Century Ride has been staged every fall since, with cyclists wending their way over the roads of Vermont's Champlain Valley, raising more than $1 million in six years. In addition to funding restraining nets along race courses and safety-awareness campaigns at ski areas, the proceeds subsidize the purchase of adaptive sporting equipment for disabled athletes such as Chris Jefferson, a former Army paratrooper who hopes to represent the U.S. as a skier at the 2014 Paralympics, and Maria Rinaldi, a quadriplegic who longed for a bowling chair so she could resume the activity she loved.
Today Kelly, 26, lives with her husband, Zeke Davisson, in Boston, where she's studying to be a nurse practitioner. Thanks to adaptive equipment, she can ski, play tennis and golf, and cycle—in 2011 she won the women's handcycle division of the Boston Marathon. And every fall she's at the head of the Century Ride's peloton. "Being an athlete has been such a part of my identity, and I'd thought it had been taken away from me," she says. "Then I realized all these things I could still do." Now her efforts are helping many more people realize what they, too, can do.
PITCHING IN WHEREVER HE SEES A NEED
When Dodgers lefthander Clayton Kershaw got married in 2010, his bride, Ellen, brought to the union an emotional dowry: a deep connection to a girl she had met on a Christian mission to Zambia. The child, Hope, lost both parents to AIDS and was HIV-positive herself, and struggling because poor nutrition interfered with the effectiveness of antiretroviral drugs.
The Kershaws haven't simply supported Hope with money. Working with the faith-based organization Arise Africa, Clayton and Ellen's foundation, Kershaw's Challenge, has built an orphanage for Hope and other children in Lusaka, the Zambian capital. On New Year's Eve the Kershaws will fly to Lusaka to inspect what they informally call Hope's Home, which opens this month. "Right now seven [orphans] have been approved, and we'll probably add from there as the orphanage gets more functional and self-sustaining," Kershaw says.