Dear THF Supporters:
THF is a relatively new organization. We have been growing slowly since January 2004 and trying our hand at various fund raising initiatives over the last year and half or so to determine what best suits our goals and hopes for the future.
It goes without saying that the personal challenges Ive faced throughout the last year have hampered our efforts significantly. I have not wanted to engage any major donor support until my case was resolved. It has been my position that it is personally and professionally unfair to spread the negativity associated with the charges against me to anyone wanting to do good. But with the resolution of my case on the horizon, it is time for me to redirect my efforts back toward moving the Tyler Hamilton Foundation full steam ahead.
Our goal and mission at THF is to empower the lives of individuals through cycling, and we have predominantly but not exclusively focused on two communities: multiple sclerosis and junior cycling.
My association with the MS Society started back in 1996. Thats when my very first sports agent asked me to get involved with the MS Cycling Series. He had a personal connection to the disease, and thought my participation in these events would help raise awareness and funding for the fight against MS.
When I participated in the first event I did not know anyone with the disease. At the time, I imagined that everyone who suffered from MS was wheelchair bound or severely crippled by it. What I didnt expect that day was to be riding along side so many cyclists who suffered from MS.
As I rode with them and listened to their stories about the pain in their legs, or the issues with their vision and their sensitivity to hot and cold, I could barely believe these folks would want to ride a bike while suffering from such a devastating disease. But the more they spoke about their various situations, the more I learned that cycling was one of the things that kept them going and kept them fighting.
It was easy to see they felt a freedom on the bike that they appreciated in a way that I only thought a professional racer could understand. It also became obvious that they feared a day would come when they could no longer be able to ride their bikes.
In much the same way a bike racer knows their career wont last forever, they seemed to cherish the opportunity to ride as if it were a precious gift they could only keep for a while. When the ride ended, I felt an extraordinary connection with these people, people I didnt even know, or know if Id see again.
From that point on, I was committed to supporting them - not only because they amazed and inspired me that day, but because I saw myself in each of them. As an athlete, and someone whose body has become his business and the center of his livelihood, I could not imagine facing the prospect of one day not having my legs do what I wanted them to do. In each of their eyes, I saw a little hint of terror that struck me so deeply. They were living my worst nightmare. So from that point on, I was committed to helping them fight MS.
When I think about the gifts the sport of cycling has bestowed on my life, my association with the fight against MS is very close to the top of the list. When I have considered my own pain, or challenges or the uncertainty of my future, I think of this community of incredible fighters that defy the odds every day. From them, I draw enormous inspiration and strength. That is why we are committed to supporting people who have MS and research initiatives working toward a cure.
I have known great success and defeat throughout my career. Both come with the territory when you choose competition as your vocation. But that all said, Ive been able to steadily progress and meet many of my goals over the years. By 2004, I had reached the pinnacle of the sport I loved. I was the leader of one of the best teams in the world and considered a legitimate contender for the Tour de France. For a kid who one day only dreamed of riding in the Tour, living within this reality was beyond my expectations.
It was a twisty road to get to that point, but there was always another plateau to jump to thanks to collegiate cycling, a strong amateur program run by the US cycling federation and a multitude of professional teams based in the US at the time I was moving up through the ranks. Sadly, none of these programs are as strong today as they once were. And thats something Id like to see change. I want the next generation of American cyclists to get the support they need to make it. But this of course, is a tall order.
I had always been taught that with success comes responsibility. Leading by example, was a principal instilled in my by my parents a very young age. As a result, good sportsmanship has always been at the center of the expectations I place on myself.
Now that Im a little more seasoned, I realize that it is also my responsibility to give back to the sport that has given me so much. Helping young riders with dreams of competing with the best in the business ride and achieve their goal is something I want to do, and also feel obligated to do.
Cycling is a gritty and demanding sport that can humble the greatest of champions. It takes a lot of determination and fight to make it, especially if you are an American kid. There is no clear-cut path from the US to the European racing circuit.
While the THF is a small organization right now, helping only a limited number of amateur riders with travel and equipment expenses, we hope to one day run or fund an amateur team that competes on both side of the Atlantic. This kind of team would be an excellent opportunity to expose young riders to the various types of racing, cultures and demands of racing at the Pro Tour level.
Both of the communities at the center of our mission have a lot in common. The road ahead for each is difficult and uncertain, but we hope to help them in meaningful ways. It is our goal to see those fighting MS and young riders with big ambitions fulfill their potential. Both communities can be defined by strength, dedication and defiance. By pushing their bodies to new limits and overcoming the challenges and obstacles they face en route to their goals, they not only embody the qualities and spirits of champions, they become them as well. The Tyler Hamilton Foundation is dedicated to supporting these incredible people with programs and funding that will help them achieve their aspirations.
But as I mentioned before, our mission focuses on many communities. In July 2005, we worked a man who was paralyzed in a car accident. He rode with us over three Colorado mountain passes on a hand cycle. It took him 13 hours but he did all of it. We feel strongly that it is important to get people on bikes and to keep people on bikes. I know the bike has made a difference in my life: professionally, personally, emotionally and physically. We want to do the same for others.
In 2005, we raised $500,000 and dedicated over fifty percent of our resources to direct mission related activities or contributions. We are very proud that during such a difficult year, with only one staff member we have been able to accomplish this much.
In 2006, we will continue to make strides and predominantly focus our energies toward two wonderful organizations: the Heuga Center and the MS International Federation. Both organizations are making a monumental impact on the lives of individuals affected by multiple sclerosis and we are honored to collaborate with them.
Founder and President
Tyler Hamilton Foundation