|After having to end his professional career as a cyclist in 2006 after a horrible bike crash that left him with a Traumatic Brain Injury, Saul Raisin founded the Raisin Hope Foundation - a foundation that raises awareness and supports survivors of Traumatic Brain Injury. Six years after his crash and founding his foundation, Saul and his foundation are still pushing to bring awareness to Traumatic Brain Injury and bring support and help that is needed to those who suffer from it.
Saul talked to us from his home in Dalton, Georgia about the Raisin Hope Foundation, his life after the crash and his hopes for the future as well as other topics.
The Raisin Hope Foundation logo. Photo © Saul Raisin
Luke Allingham- Hi Saul, what have you been up to since our last interview in January?
Saul:I was training quite seriously for the Ironman Hawaii, I thought that getting 120,000 views in the last round of voting, having the most views in the Kona Inspired contest, I thought I had a really good shot at getting in, but then I didn't get it, so that was a little blow into my ego especially since I got everyone from Bradley Wiggins to put on Twitter to vote for me. So, I didn't get into Kona, which doesn't matter, life still goes on.
I'm no longer the same Saul as I used to be - I am 6' 1'', 185 pounds and I can bench press 200 hundred pounds. I'm in school, still studying - it's like sticking a knife in my side - and I am also trying to find a good job; maybe working in marketing, networking, things like that - those are things I am really good at.
Luke- You have a foundation called the Raisin Hope Foundation - can you tell us about the foundation and what it supports? When was the foundation founded?
Saul:Raisin Hope originated when I was in the hospital. I told my family and friends - "if I ever lived a normal life again, I want to give back and help people like me." Now I have a so called, normal life and I want to give back and help others and my family does too.
At Raisin Hope, we have big hearts and even bigger dreams, we have a lot of things we want to accomplish. For now, our foundation, all the money we get,we give away. We look for organizations that can give back hope to people like the Wounded Warrior project, the Shepherd Center of Atlanta, Georgia and at the end of the year we write a check to organizations that we think can help people, but it is our dream one day to start brain injury support groups, connect people in the world with brain injuries - connect them with each other. Have brain injury support groups around the world - that would be our dream come true. We really just want to connect people and link them together so they get hope from each other. Our wounded veterans have traumatic brain injuries - we want to reach out to them and give them hope. They need all the support they can get, them and their families do.
Luke- Last year the Raisin Hope Foundation hosted the "Raisin Hope Ride", will that be happening again in 2012? If so, when and where will it be held? How can people register for the ride?
Saul:Actually, this year the Raisin Hope Foundation and the whole Raisin family, we're going to the Netherlands. We have an official Raisin Hope Foundation in the Netherlands now and this year they're having their first annual Raisin Hope ride right there, so we're going to the Netherlands - the Raisin family is, so we're going to the Netherlands and we're going to have a good time.
Their ride is going to be September the 23rd in the Netherlands. We normally have the Raisin Hope ride on September the 1st, but that is not going to be feasible with going up to the Netherlands, because really, we won't have the time to devote to put the ride on, so as of now, it looks like the Raisin Hope ride is going to be pushed back to the Spring sometime, that's the plan.
Saul in the Raisin Hope Foundation Netherlands jersey. Photo © Saul Raisin
Luke- The Raisin Hope Foundation has expanded to the Netherlands, what does it mean to you that your foundation has expanded internationally?
Saul:Like I said, it's the goal. The goal is to link families, brain injury survivors and to connect people that have brain injuries. Let them know that they're not alone and that they can get through it. There is so much none about the brain, but there is even more unknown. That what Raisin Hope tries to do, we try to give people hope. Having a foundation in the Netherlands now, it's just beautiful. It really touches me and my family, I think it is our next step to giving back hope to people that need it with brain injuries and really reaching out to them and their families.
Luke- How can people donate or get involved with the Raisin Hope Foundation?
Saul:They can start by signing up on Raisinhope.org, my foundation's website. They can start there, if they here of someone who has a traumatic brain injury, they can send them to us. One thing I tell people, it sounds like it's a little cheesy maybe, but if you ever see one of our veterans in uniform in the airport or anywhere, always thank them for their service, because brain injury is something that you don't see. So many of our veterans have traumatic brain injuries from this war and just thanking them for their service is a big way of giving them hope. That's one way that you could even just be a part of Raisin Hope, just give people hope.
Join Raisinhope.org, thank our veterans and give people hope.
Luke- What are your hobbies currently?
Saul:I like going to the gym, I have a beautiful girlfriend that also is a brain injury survivor. She was in a coma for almost nine months. She's absolutely an amazing girl, so I like being with her - I don't know if that's a hobby, but I do it. I'm going to school, I am still giving a lot of motivational speeches. This year I've been to Alaska, Virginia, Maryland, I'll be giving some speeches while I'm in the Netherlands. I like lifting weights - I'm happy not to be that little 145 pound pro cyclist anymore, so I really enjoy that.
Luke- This year you made a huge push to make it into the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii, but unfortunately did not make the selection - what were your reactions when you heard the news? Will you retry next year?
Saul:Yeah, I don't see why not. Maybe one day I'll just qualify for it, but I really want to do Ironman to raise awareness for brain injuries and disabilities, that's really my goal. My impressions when I didn't get in it was: this competition is rigged, because it was supposed to be viewers choice on the video, so I thought - this is not right.
Everyone in the competition had wonderful videos, but its just not what I was hoping for. Not to mention, the two people who were automatically chosen in my round, they both had great videos, but they had 5,000-10,000 views on their video and I had 120,000. It was just really disappointing.
Luke- What do you hope to accomplish in the next five years both for your foundation and personally?
Saul:For Raisin Hope: Try to grow the foundation, one day have Raisin Hope support group programs so people can connect with each other and not just give away our money, but actually do some things with it.
Personally: You never know, maybe get married, have kids, have a good job somewhere, all things like that would be great. Just live my life, live the new life that I have.
"To me, cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world" - Saul Raisin. Photo © Saul Raisin
Luke- Your former teammate, Bradley Wiggins recently won the Tour de France as well as an Olympic gold medal in the time trial; what are your thoughts when you see former teammates achieving so much?
Saul:It's awesome to see. I know Wiggins really well, we've roomed a lot together and really it's great to see. It's good to see a good classy gentleman winning races. I'm really happy for him, I hope he has continued success, but - there always has to be a but - it's kind of hard for me to watch, because I was right up there with Wiggins; I was a really good stage racer, I was a better climber. I could have definitely given Wiggins a run for his money and that's why it's hard to watch, because I would have up there with him. Still, it's great to watch.
Luke- The last time we spoke in January, you said that you see how twisted the sport of cycling can be and you're happy to be out of it - can you expand on this and what you mean when you say the sport can be twisted?
Saul:When you do bike races that are stage races like the Tour of Austria in June, you get snowed, you get hailed on, you're racing on cobbles, you're have twenty-man pile ups, you're on and off antibiotics constantly all year long, etc. Your body just takes such a beating and like I said, it's twisted, just how utterly hard the sport is and how the majority of the cyclist don't really get paid that much, being compared to other professional sports. Because of that, it's really twisted. It's a disgustingly hard sport, the conditions you race in and it's just hard. What else can you say? There are a lot of reason why it's a twisted sport.
To me, cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world. When you're on a bike you're free; you're mind isn't at a job or doing anything else and to get paid to do the most beautiful sport in the world, nothing is better than that. Cyclist are under payed, but they get paid, to me, to do the most beautiful sport in the world. At the professional level it's twisted, because it is just so hard in terms of the races and stuff, the conditions.
About the Author: Luke Allingham is an amateur bicycle athlete residing in Chicago, Illinois who continues to hone his skills despite entering his first year of high school in the coming year. He is a contributor to The Daily Peloton Cycling News covering men's professional cycling and interviewing bicycle racers from around the world.
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