Athlete Spotlight: Max Gretschel
Max Gretschel and his mom Cathy first heard about Athletes Serving Athletes through Max’s roommate, Kendall. Max and Kendall were classmates together at the Maryland School for the Blind, and after graduating they moved into a group home together for people living with limited mobility. Kendall was already an Athlete with ASA, and Max and Cathy were intrigued and excited by the opportunity to join the community.
“Max is an extremely social kid, so any opportunity to get him outside and active with other kids, we’ll do it,” Cathy says.
It was 2013 when Cathy signed Max up to start attending Group Runs, and was surprised and delighted to learn that ASA’s Executive Director was none other than Dave Slomkoswki – a friend that her brothers had known at their close-knit high school, DeMatha.
“It was great; there was already a connection there, and so we jumped in headfirst and went for it,” Cathy recalls.
Since joining ASA, Cathy has watched Max benefit from its positive impact. One thing that makes the organization so special to them is the unconditional acceptance of the Wingmen and Captains.
“These kids are a lot of times very scary to other people,” she explained. “Usually it’s adults – kids are just curious, but adults can be inappropriate or mean. You get used to your child doing things that are very normal for you, but it’s easy for other people to be freaked out.”
“But at ASA, everyone is used to that and accepts it and people don’t bat an eye. People at ASA made Max so comfortable that it never gave him pause to enjoy himself – it’s huge to be accepted by people like that.”
Another reason that Max is so fond of ASA is that being able to go out on Group Runs on his own with his friends is his thing. Since Cathy isn’t a runner, she usually drops him off to enjoy this special activity that is all his own – which is important to have when you rely on others the way Max and so many other Athletes do throughout their lives.
Max and Cathy’s favorite ASA memory to date is his first Bay Bridge run.
“It was early on in his racing, and that experience solidified that ASA was really, truly another family,” she recalls. “The camaraderie, the dedication, and the love that the Wingmen and Captains give in order to do all this for these kids just blows my mind as a parent.”
“It gives so much joy to a parent to see their kid so happy, independent and doing something they want to do. It’s really a blessing, and I can’t explain it enough to people how much of an impact it has on parents and Athletes.”