PHILADELPHIA -- June 30, 2009 -- For the second consecutive year, the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race Challenge is honoring an inspiring individual for outstanding personal triumph over adversity. Nicholas (Nick) LaRaia of Oxford, N.C., is the winner of the national contest to recognize people who have overcome a life-altering, disabling injury or illness and who then set an example that both inspires and helps others.
In support of its mission to help improve the health, well-being and sense of security of individuals, CIGNA returns this year for the fourth time as the title sponsor of the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race. As the winner of the essay contest, Nick and a guest will receive an all-expense-paid trip to join the CIGNA Running Team in the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race on August 9 in Falmouth, Mass.
In November 2002, Nick was struck by a pickup truck during a routine bike ride. The accident severed his left leg at the knee. His recovery and the rehabilitation work that followed is a story of perseverance and success for Nick as well as for the people he treats as a physical therapist.
Despite the pain, Nick began exercising his leg as quickly as possible after the accident. Through his hard work and commitment, he was able to use a prosthetic leg and then return to work as a physical therapist four months after his injury. At about the same time, Nick went for his first on-road bike ride with his wife Dee by his side. Together they trained throughout that summer, culminating in a 150 mile bike ride as part of the Eastern North Carolina MS150 to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Nick tells his patients three things: You can always do more than you think you can, always be willing to accept help, and set real and tangible goals for yourself. "These were actions that were sometimes difficult for me to remember," said LaRaia. "I don't know what I would have done without the support of my wife and family. You always hear it, but now I really know that emotional nourishment is as important to healing as physical nourishment."
"Nick is an inspiration to all of us -- he has overcome what most would consider an insurmountable obstacle to live life to the fullest and to contribute to his patients and his community," said Dr. Dick Salmon, national medical director for CIGNA and a participant in the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race for most of the past 15 years. “We are very pleased to welcome him as a member of the CIGNA Running Team this year."
In addition to cycling, Nick took up running after the accident by setting a goal for himself to complete a triathlon. He chronicles his early days of running in his award-winning essay, "My first runs were about 50 feet. I was exhausted. But I continued and 50 feet became 500 feet. Eventually after many months, I could actually run the 6.2 miles I would have to run to finish a triathlon--with some walking breaks," he said. Nick and Dee now run races together to raise money for charity and Nick has assisted soldiers returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan who have lost a limb.
Nick has also become active in an amputee support group at Duke Medical Center, where he is a guest lecturer. He started and still runs a support group for the rural four-county area where he lives and works. Both Nick and Dee became Certified Peer Visitors through the Amputee Coalition of America, supporting people who have recently lost, or are facing loss of a limb. He continues to train people to walk with prosthetic limbs in his physical therapy practice at Maria Parham Medical Center in Henderson, N. C. As he says, "I now have some extra insight, and hopefully lead by example."
Nick continues to set new goals for himself every day, "I look forward to running the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race this year, not just for myself but to raise awareness for those with disabilities and show that what seems impossible is so often possible with support and assistance from friends, families and the professionals who dedicate themselves to helping others."
To view a video of Nick telling his story, visit Cigna.com.
More information on the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race is available at FalmouthRoadRace
CIGNA (NYSE:CI), a global health service company, is dedicated to helping people improve their health, well-being and security. CIGNA Corporation's operating subsidiaries provide an integrated suite of medical, dental, behavioral health, pharmacy and vision care benefits, as well as group life, accident and disability insurance, to approximately 47 million people throughout the United States and around the world. To learn more about CIGNA, visit Cigna.com. To sign up for email alerts or an RSS feed of company news log on to newsroom.cigna.com.
About the CIGNA Falmouth Road Race
The Falmouth Road Race was founded in 1973 and has been named the "Best USA Road Race" by Runner's World magazine. It has also been featured in Life Magazine and Sports Illustrated, as well as on CBS television and ESPN. In 2005, it was named in Sports Illustrated "One of the 25 essential things to do in the summer." It was the only road race listed. Proceeds from the race benefit Falmouth school programs and youth organizations. The race annually receives more than 25,000 requests for entry forms and fills its field of 10,000 in less than a week. For more information visit FalmouthRoadRace.com.