Project Athena is a 501c3 non-profit foundation that encourages women who’ve endured life-altering medical setbacks to unleash the Athlete and Adventurer within and complete the journey of a lifetime—whether that’s to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, cross the finish line of an Ironman Triathlon, or fall into the arms of a proud family at the end of a local 5K.
Project Athena provides travel expenses, entry fees, coaching, equipment and, most importantly, the encouragement and inspiration to help strong, amazing women make that life-affirming transition from Survivor to Athlete.
Project Athena’s Mission in Action:
“Imagine you have survived a disease like cancer or had something tragic happen that has completely changed who you are physically and emotionally. Some of us don’t have to imagine this. It’ is a very real part of our daily lives.
I am a 6 year breast cancer survivor. Before I was diagnosed, I was a healthy, happy woman. After 1 year and 4 surgeries to save my life and attempt to get back to what I believed was physically appealing, I was still not that person any more. I fought with weight gain from the cancer treatment and, let’s face it, I was not the same physical person I was before, with both my breast being removed. It takes a toll on your emotional state to first fight for your life and then try to accept that you are not that same person you were before.
Last year, I was honored to become one of the first Athenaship recipients of the Project Athena Foundation. At the time I was struggling with being overweight and just trying to do things I used to, like hiking and biking and skiing. I was still on my cancer medication and it seemed like I was never going to be completely happy again with myself.
Most organizations boast that they are there to help find a cure or stop something that they feel is wrong. Project Athena does not do either, but in reality they do cure people. Once I found out I was going on one of their athletic adventures, the Grand Canyon rim2rim2rim, I was so excited. It motivated me to work harder and gave me a goal to work for. I worked out harder and saw my body changing and my emotional state improving with the daily thoughts of actually doing this extraordinary adventure.
If I had to rank my Grand Canyon adventure, I would have to say it was one of the best experiences of my life. It’s not just because I was able to do this, but because the emotional high it brought to my life being able to actually complete it and to be around so many positively inspiring people, many of whom are survivors themselves and motivated me all the way. Project Athena Foundation gave me my life back. I wasn’t just here physically struggling to live day to day anymore. I actually felt happy again and wanted more for myself and the people around me.” – Kathleen Gardner, 2012 Athenaship Recipient