"Working at CAF impacted my life in ways I never expected. . . . I will never forget the events and the athletes [that] made a difference in my life."

Gail Myers
Challenged Athletes Foundation
San Diego, CA


Qualcomm retiree follows her love of sports to transition into nonprofit sector

My 20-year career in Qualcomm’s legal department began as a litigation paralegal/legal analyst, advanced to Discovery Management Operations Director, and Project Management Director with the Legal Operations group.   As the trusted, key advocate and core business team member for Legal Operations initiatives to increase operational efficiencies, I provided critical support to drive a standardized process relating to engagement letters for legal services, Outside Counsel Guidelines, and expansion of e-billing to other Legal Groups  In order to improve predictability and decision-making around selection of outside counsel, I worked with others to drive the effort to expand value-added forecasting to proactively monitor our litigation spend.

Volunteering has always been in my blood, and my first volunteer position was as a Girl Scout leader for my daughter’s troop in San Diego. In addition, I served as Board Member for the Serra Foundation, which is the fundraising arm of her high school, and served on various volunteer teams through Qualcomm. In my quest to continue to give back, and make a difference in the community, a colleague told me about the Encore Fellowship opportunity, and I decided to transfer to the nonprofit world. During the interviews with various nonprofits, it became abundantly clear that given my love of sports and athletics, Challenged Athletes Foundation (“CAF”) was the place for me.

CAF’s mission is to provide opportunities and support people with physical challenges so that they can pursue active lifestyles through physical fitness and competitive athletics.  The belief is that being involved in sports at any level increases self- esteem, encourages independence and enhances quality of life.  The grants come in the form of prosthetics and competition expenses.  As a member of the programs department, I was a team member involved in conducting the evaluations of grant application. My responsibilities included directing strategy for and assisting in developing an online CAF resource guide for the challenged athlete population.  This directory of links and information on other adaptive sports organizations throughout the US increased collaboration with organizations and challenged athlete community

In addition, I was able to adapt project management best practices to provide more efficient tools and templates for CAF sport camps/clinics planning and activities. To review and evaluate the process of grants to athletes, my responsibilities included meeting deadlines, recommending workflow improvements, developing training guides, and creating presentation slides formalizing pre- and post- mailing activities for the future.  I assisted with evaluating close to 2000 submissions in two separate grant seasons.  Meanwhile, I participated in the Encore Fellows curriculum to learn about nonprofit sector, trends and best practices

CAF greeted me with open arms, and even though I was assigned to the Programs Department, I was afforded the opportunity to work with the other groups and expand my knowledge and skills.

Working at CAF impacted my life in ways I never expected. It made a positive change in me because I felt like I had some small part in helping these individuals increase their independence on a daily basis. At the adaptive surfing camp, for example, I felt a true connection with the kids, and it was fantastic to see their huge smiles after riding the waves. There were many times I had tears of joy streaming down my face because I knew their story, how their lives had been impacted, they were able to persevere, and continue to pursue their athletic dreams.  I will never forget how these events and the athletes made a difference in my life.

I gained a tremendous amount of new skills working in the nonprofit sector. It was absolutely incredible to see how nonprofits operate in contrast to “for-profit” business world. CAF provided me the opportunity to serve as a CAF representative at their first adaptive indoor rock climbing event in Colorado.  The Encore Fellowship at CAF was wide-ranging, and extremely interesting.  After having working in the legal world for several decades, the change was a welcome one.

CAF utilizes the new tools, templates and processes developed during my Encore Fellowship today and will continue to do so in the future. CAF retained me as a consultant, after my fellowship was complete, and I loved being back with the team and connecting with the athletes again. The challenged athlete community will always hold a special place in my heart.


Interested in becoming an Encore Fellow? Learn more and apply at https://encore.org/fellowships/fellow/

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