By Cat McCarrey
BU New Service
The 2013 Boston Marathon bombings left scores of athletes, many at the top of their game, suddenly trying to rebuild, one step at a time. But for one of last year’s runners, Scott Rigsby, a battle had already been won by the time he ran the course for the second time last year. Rigsby lost both of his legs in an accident years ago and went on to become the first double amputee to complete the Hawaiian Ironman Triathalon.
Now, he’s back in Boston to tell the victims of the bombing and other disadvantaged runners: “You can run.”
Or so Rigsby said from a room at the Hynes Convention Center last Friday, where he worked with the Athletes with Disabilities Clinic. Sporting a neat beard and close cropped hair, barrel-chested Rigsby carried chairs and handed out flyers, as he bounced around on two rods of black descending into attached sneakers. Those rods were his “walking” legs, markedly different from his mountain biking legs, road biking legs, aqua legs, and the arced running legs he will use in Monday’s marathon.
Risgby, who hails from Marietta, Ga., lost both legs in a car accident when he was 18. In
2007, after 20 years of struggle, he gave new meaning to the term Ironman, by being the first double amputee to complete the Hawaiian Triathalon. Afterward, he founded the non-profit Scott Rigsby Foundation.
The foundation typically works with amputee veterans and their supporters. They have hosted Warrior Family Retreats to offer counseling and community to military members and their families. Rigsby believes that healing from accidents that result in loss of ability doesn’t just affect the single victim, but all those who support them. “We want to be able to heal families, heal communities, not just individuals,” he said.
This year, he used his foundation to campaign for victims of the bombing. Rigsby raised more than $350,000 in a few months. He donated $200,000 to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center, which has provided aid for amputees from the bombing.
According to a March 17 press release from the foundation, the grant will support Spaulding’s long-term care and research programs for the bombing survivors and enable the expansion of Spaulding’s Comprehensive Rehabilitation Unit.
Rigsby ran 25.7 miles of last year’s marathon before the bombs went off. “I’ve always had a great deal of respect for the Boston Marathon,” he said. He partially credits photo-hungry
Boston University students for saving him from injury last year, stalling him long enough to avoid crossing the finish line at the time of the bombings.
Laura Barnard, CFO of Georgia-based Halpern’s Steak and Seafood Company, is a longtime running partner of Rigsby’s. “He’s basically my kid’s uncle,” she said from the convention center, where she sat at Rigsby’s table. “He’s got all these families all over the country.”
Barnard ran as a guide with Rigsby last year, helping him carry extra supplies and tending to his legs. She looks forward to finishing the race on Monday. “It’s really meaningful this year,” she said.
Rigsby is running this year’s marathon alongside three veterans with amputated limbs and Stephanie Freeman, a car wreck victim with a traumatic brain injury. He’ll also support local teacher John Young, who hopes to be the first person with dwarfism to complete the race.
The Scott Rigsby Foundation will continue to grant funds to the Spaulding Rehabilitation Center in the future. “I’m endeared to this city.” said Rigsby. “It’s a very special place to me.”