Undeniable Drive

On May 17, 2003, Mike and Sandy Kozloski lived out every parent’s worst nightmare. They held their daughter Jordan on their laps, unsure if she would live or die. Jordan, now 6 years old, was 2 at the time of her accident. She had run up behind her father, who was mowing the lawn at their Warner Robins, Ga. home, trying to say goodbye, as she and Sandy prepared to go to the store. Mike had no way of knowing his daughter was behind him and accidently hit Jordan, whose left leg was pulled under the blades of the riding mower.

Challenged Athletes FoundationMike immediately went to call 911 and get towels and blankets, while Sandy, a nurse, applied pressure to the wound to control the bleeding. It took 40 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, followed by a 20 minute trip to the hospital. After being rushed to two local hospitals and airlifted to Atlanta, Jordan miraculously survived. Her left leg, however, was not so lucky – it was amputated above the knee that day.

For Mike and Sandy, the news that Jordan’s life had been saved was all that mattered. Yet, the Kozloski’s, who had patiently waited to adopt – their name unmoving on an adoption list for almost 15 years until finally bringing Jordan home in 2001 – could not have envisioned almost losing their daughter.

Proving her resiliency

Jordan, however, proved herself to be a resilient, tough-minded little girl. According to Mike, Jordan received her first prosthesis on Aug. 4, 2003, and neither Mike nor Sandy had any idea what to expect from her, or how she would handle the transition. Turns out they were worried over nothing.

“[The amputation] didn’t stop her. She got her first prosthetic leg Aug. 4, and by Aug. 5 she was riding her bike. We had to Duct tape her foot to the pedal, but she was able to ride,” Mike said.

Jordan Kozloski
Image: Rich Cruse

Jordan’s resiliency that day foreshadowed an active life filled with sports, with golf being her favorite and best sport. As Mike puts it, Jordan is “your typical tomboy,” initially shy at first, but bursting with energy when sports come into the picture.

“She started golfing when she was probably 3 years old. I’d always played golf and she always liked being with me. This year she just started taking lessons – she finally had the attention span and the focus. She’s doing really well – drives the ball about 125 yards, has made 60-foot putts. She has a pretty good short game. I wish mine was as good as hers,” Mike said.

Stumbling across CAF

Jordan’s love for sports led Mike to look for ways to show Jordan other amputees, especially younger amputees, who were interested in the same activities. Their home in rural Georgia doesn’t give Jordan the chance to see many amputees and Mike, after searching the Internet, finally stumbled across the O&P Extremity Games by College Park, held for the first time in Orlando, Fla. in July 2006. It was then that Jordan and her parents would be introduced to the Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF).

“We were walking into the BMX area and Jill Prichard, who is the program director for CAF, was walking out. She stopped and started talking to Jordan, asking her if she liked sports. She said that we should come out to San Diego to see a bunch of neat people compete [at the San Diego Triathlon Challenge]. We e-mailed each other back and forth and then we went out [to San Diego] last November,” Mike said. “She got to meet Sarah Reinertsen, Carlos Moleda, Tricia Downing, Scout Bassett, Rudy Garcia-Tolson, and a bunch of other kids. She got to see other kids with knees like hers, feet like hers. She ran in the [kids] race out there and that’s all she could talk about when she came back. On the way home she was just fired up … she came back and had ideas about what she wanted for a new leg.”

Access for Athletes

Jordan’s trip to San Diego in November would be just the first of many positive experiences she would have with CAF. She is currently receiving grant money from CAF’s program “Access for Athletes,” not to mention appearing in several CAF publications.

Access for Athletes provides direct funding for training, competition and equipment to physically disabled athletes, ranging from world-class athletes to those who are recently disabled and looking to become more active. To receive funding, interested athletes can download a grant application from CAF’s Web site. According to CAF, 530 applications were received for the 2006-2007 year, with 90% being accepted. The 482 total athletes receiving aid from CAF is up 12% from 2005-2006, when 429 athletes were given grant money, and up an astounding 54% from 2004-2005, when 312 athletes were granted funding.

Parents’ pride

Jordan Kozloski received her grant from CAF in March, which provided her with a set of TaylorMade golf clubs and covered her lessons, green fees and range balls. In the 4 years since her accident, Jordan has become an inspiration to others, and her parents could not be prouder.

“For a 6-year-old she touches the hearts of a lot of people. She does it in our local community, as well as California and all over the country,” Mike said.

None of that would be possible without CAF, according to Mike. He believes the doors that have opened for his daughter are directly related to CAF.

“In [Jordan’s] instance, and other athletes like her, regardless of their age, [CAF] teaches them that they can compete, they can be an active part of competitive society. Her goal now is to beat Tiger Woods. It gives people like her an understanding that there’s help out there, that there are other people who have gone through it, too.”

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Andrew Kelly is the assistant editor for O&P Business News.

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