“I don’t like to ever give in to defeat,” explains Adam Warden. An accomplished endurance athlete, life-long volunteer, member of Emerging Leaders, and proud community champion—Adam inspires others with the resilient mindset he brings into everything that he does.
To understand Adam’s drive, it’s helpful to look at the life experiences that have shaped him. During college, Adam joined the military where he first served in recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina, and later was deployed to Iraq in 2006.
After his military service, Adam started working in the business and utility sector. He first became active in United Way while working at Ryan Companies where he proudly supported the United Way campaign and was eager to connect with new volunteer opportunities in the community. He joined Emerging Leaders, a United Way giving community that facilitates special events, networking, and nonprofit involvement for early to mid-career professionals. In his free time, Adam devoted himself to endurance sports—finishing more than 100 triathlons, three full Ironman races, and several long-distance trail running races.
Hardship and Hope
Then one day life changed. Adam suffered an accident at home that eventually caused him to lose his left leg below the knee. The physical setbacks he experienced led to an identity crisis and a crossroads in his life.
“Racing wasn’t just a hobby, it was my whole life,” he explains. “When I was bedridden for three months and wasn’t sure if I was going to walk again, and didn’t think I’d be able to race anymore, I realized the only thing I had any control over was how I chose to deal with it.”
And with that, Adam persevered and was back racing in rapid time. Three weeks after his amputation surgery, he completed his first 5K using a wheelchair. Two days after receiving his prosthetic leg, he ran a 5K. And in the year since his surgery, he completed four triathlons.
Adam says support from loved ones and the community helped him recover from his hardship. “People in the Twin Cities are so willing to help out another person,” he said. Today, Adam is paying it forward by channeling his renewed sense of purpose into everything he does.
As a result, Adam has made volunteering a huge part of his life—lending his time, talents, and fundraising efforts to many nonprofits in the Twin Cities and around the country. Locally, he coaches adaptive rock climbing, swimming, ski and snowboarding for kids—helping them develop physical confidence and a love of being active. “Your disability goes away when you’re able to do things,” he explains.
Getting Involved and Giving Back
Adam’s own experience of going through a life-altering event is one of the reasons he feels so compelled to help others in need. “I’ve had a chance to understand that in life there are things that happen that are totally outside of your realm of control,” he explains. “If I didn’t have the resources I had after my injury, it could have totally collapsed me, financially, mentally, emotionally. It’s easy to see how one thing can snowball drastically.”
Adam sees United Way’s programming as an important and supportive safety net for people in their time of need. “The more I find out about United Way, the more I really love the cause, and the way the organization really looks at issues collectively,” he said.
He’s furthered his involvement in United Way by serving on the Emerging Leaders engagement committee and by making new connections with members of United Way’s Tocqueville Society. Last summer he had the opportunity to attend the Tocqueville Society Annual Dinner, and left the event feeling inspired about the future.
“It was one of the best experiences of my life, I absolutely loved it,” Adam said. “I met some of the best possible role models.”
Looking ahead, Adam plans to keep up his nonprofit involvement and work towards a variety of personal goals—including training for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. In all areas of life, he’s inspired to go further, explaining, “No one can tell me there’s anything I can’t do, except me.”