The Kevin Babington Foundation 9/14/2022
First I always need to start by saying I did not create the Kevin Babington Foundation. It was Missy Clark, John Brennan, Marty Huggins, and some notable powerhouses in the sport who formed the foundation shortly after Kevin’s tragic fall three years ago at the Hampton Classic. I was asked to take over in a manner of speaking about eighteen months ago, though it’s worth noting every member of the original board remains at my disposal without exception. To this day they are very involved.
I’m a meager A/O Jumper rider who first sat on a horse in a serious sense about 23 years ago when I was something like 43. A late bloomer would be a bit of an exaggeration as I’m not sure I every really bloomed. That said with the help of many you would recognize in the sport I’ve had some wins and in either case great gratification riding six days a week to this day. I founded and own the Silver Oak Jumper Tournament – like the KBF it’s a registered 501c3 which in concert with our founding presenting sponsor, The Davis McCullough Foundation is supporting the sport of Show Jumping and animal rescue both K9 and Equine. It was in fact in Traverse City a week back that Cynthia a long time supporter suggested I reach out to you. If you go to www.silveroakjumpertournament.com you can see the daily press releases from last week. In addition to a number of CSI3* events capped by the CSI3* $137,600 Agero Grand Prix the annual Kevin Babington Classic was in evidence supported by young riders as well as Olympians and peers of Kevin such as Shane Sweetman a fellow Irishman. Anyway I talked about my struggles and riding journey in chapter one of Unbridled Passion when I published that profile of the sport’s top horses and riders and those special relationships a few years back.
Enough about how I got here. My day job has been as CEO of a number of North America’s largest technology companies such as Lotus and Cognos both of which after public offerings were sold to IBM. So I’m a computer scientist and geek of sorts. I met Kevin years back at HITS in New York where unrelated circumstance had us cross paths and we became fast friends. While the Kevin Babington Foundation is in Kevin’s name it’s vital to understand it’s for “show jumping athletes living their worst nightmares with spinal cord injuries ”not simply for Kevin. We have supported several such afflicted colleagues such as Alexis Johnson, David Bisel, Kim Prince and of course Kevin. It’s more than a financial engine but a center for study and publication of otherwise available papers and breakthroughs likely not seen by many of us before having a reason for an acute interest. We are also there to promote safety in the sport, hence the focus on the wearing of Air Vests.
Kevin’s journey has been particularly intense, starting with a respirator, and all manner of life support. Kevin’s Olympic spirit, tenacity and determination has allowed him to endure grueling stem cell interventions, hyperbaric chambers to strengthen his breathing and voice and travel to a large number of leading institutes where he has submitted himself to any and all therapies that might improve his mobility. He has come a long way with control of his chair and right hand, movement of late in his toes and just recently sensation, short for pain, in his back. It’s always sensation before function. The sensations can be PG13 events which mere mortals would shutter at. Kevin being Kevin he never complains, his focus is always on others. He’s taken the time to help me with my riding if you can believe it, as has Dianna. I’m the kind of student that has some pulling their hair out but they have both along with an army of others in the sport tolerated my gross incompetence none the less. Another demonstration of Kevin’s concern for anybody other than himself.
When Kim was injured recently and the Foundation ensured she would receive the best possible therapy at the Shepard’s institute in Atlanta Georgia, Kevin was on the phone with me in a flash. Kim and Kevin have talked and I’m sure he has been an inspiration to her. Kim in fact has taken her first few steps with some assistance and is making significant progress though like Kevin she has a long hard road ahead of her. The out pouring of support for Kevin from the Show Jumping community makes me proud to play a small role in our sport. Kevin is loved, and from fellow Olympians to children the volume of interest in his recovery can be staggering. My assistant of some thirty plus years Sharon Ricci organizes a great deal of this and I talk to as many as long hours allow. It’s a reflection of the love affair Kevin has catalyzed with so many in the sport by numerous selfless gestures of kindness. Kevin was of course a chapter of significance in Unbridled Passion and when that 2nd printing took off and gained some visibility I called on Kevin more than a few times to speak to children, some from the Children’s Wish Foundation and irrespective of his schedule he always, always responded in the affirmative. That’s Kevin. His fall changed none of it in fact given he now reluctantly realizes he has become an icon and source of inspiration for many he is always asking what he can do and who does he need to speak with. I’m also on the board of an incredible organization, “Canine Support Teams” who raises and trains service dogs for those with handicaps in many instances veterans, ( I’m a USMC officer retired ) myself. Seems like that chapter of my life was a hundred years ago. On July 5th of this year Canine Support Teams delivered to Kevin – Samantha his Australian Shepard soul mate and constant chair side companion.
The cost of care and support of these athletes to include Kevin is monumental. As a consequence the KBF foundation is in one way or another by necessity always fund raising. My nightmare – the thing that keeps me awake at night is the scenario where a new scientific breakthrough becomes available and I fail to have the solvency to fund whatever is needed in private travel, medical intervention or any kind of support. The Foundation is totally staffed by volunteers my assistant and CFO are examples, nobody draws a salary. The mean average for direct application of funds in the United States for registered charities is around 39 percent, the KBF contributes nearly every dollar of every penny raised to the care of the athletes in our charge. Overhead at the KBF in 2022 will be about 6 percent.
It’s a bit hard for me to talk about it because Kevin’s journey in particular is very personal for me, I’ve taken an oath of sorts, adopted a code. I will be there at every turn, I will use every ounce of my business acumen and energy to raise the funds needed to ensure Kevin walks again. If it takes the last breath I draw on this planet I will honor that code, I will be there for Kevin, for Kim, for David, for Alexis and those future athletes in need. Kevin is better than I – he is more selfless, more courageous, more patient, and more inspirational. I’m no hero, but I’ve walked beside a few when I served in the Marine Corps and yet none have been more valiant. Whatever it takes, my last breath, a kidney, my last ounce of devotion the Kevin Babington Foundation will be there not just for Kevin but those brothers and sisters he prays for every night. It’s true because speaking of Kevin he has earned it. Please help me in any way you can, (www.KevinBabingtonFoundation.org)there but for a bit of luck Kevin or Kim’s situation could be one any of us experience. Start by buying that air vest – there are several very successful variants available. Donate whatever you can no contribution is too small.