Challenged athlete Tara Butcher speaks at 2nd Annual TPHS Youth Summer Speed Camp

Tara Butcher speaking to students at Torrey Pines High School July 12.
Tara Butcher speaking to students at Torrey Pines High School July 12.
(Nicole Noel)

Tara Butcher, a 39-year-old single leg below-knee amputee athlete, came to Torrey Pines High School July 12 to speak to 78 youth athletes ages 8-17, five coaches and a half dozen parents on the importance of having a positive attitude and mindset for mentally overcoming physical challenges.

“You can achieve and accomplish just about anything if you say you can,” Butcher said.

In 2005, Butcher was driving home on the freeway in San Diego when she was involved in a minor car accident. While pulled over and out of her car, she was struck by another vehicle going 72 mph, catapulting her across two lanes. She was in a coma for 10 days and had to have a metal rod inserted into her right leg and her left leg had to be amputated. She has made an incredible recovery since her accident and thanks to her network of support and the Challenged Athletes Foundation, she has run the New York City Marathon, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and Mt Whitney, and currently competes in triathlons and is a dedicated yogi. She recently ran the Empire State Building Run Up and won the female division. She continues to stay active and inspire many with her story.

“I love that I am able to speak to people about what happened to me, especially our youth,” Butcher said. “I feel they need to understand the importance that accidents and physical limitations may be a game changer for the moment, however, they are definitely not a game ender.”

Jackson Kaminsky with Speed Camp Coach Marcus Parker
(Zephyr Fletcher)

After her enlightening speech, Butcher encouraged athletes to ask her about anything they wanted. Questions ranged from, “What training did you do to overcome your injury?” to “Do you sleep with your prosthetic leg on?” to which Butcher laughed, “No…what amazing questions you’re all asking!”

Professional trainer and camp operator Marty Graham, of Solana Beach, said, “It is incredibly important for youth to understand that road blocks naturally come in life, and sometimes really big ones. It’s going to be your mind and attitude that get you to overcome these obstacles and move forward.”

The TPHS Foundation’s Youth Speed Camp was created by alumni athletes Marty Graham and Zephyr Fletcher as a fundraiser for the TPHS Education Fund in 2019. COVID-19 shut down its second year in 2020. By popular demand, it resumed July 12-16, 2021. Fletcher commented, “We aimed to bring kids together to motivate them to be athletes for life, like Marty and I are. I am incredibly grateful for him, our amazing coaches, and our daily motivational speakers that have come to help.”

Fletcher continued, “In 2019, we had Parker Olenick, a 15-year-old aspiring Paralympian with cerebral palsy, goalie for the junior and adult San Diego Ducks Sled Hockey, team captain of Stoke for Life Junior Adaptive Surf Team, which is the first junior adaptive surf team, speak to our athletes. Truly inspiring!”

The camp’s daily schedule consisted of individualized training coaching, conditioning with applied mechanics, resistance weight room training and competitive team building. Speed Camp Coach Marcus Parker, 23, who is 14th in the country in the 200-meter sprint and All American ACC Sprinter at Clemson University, said this of the camp, “It’s wonderful to see youth athletes working together as a close-knit group throughout the week. They learn important values in character and become open to what can be, versus what is.”

To learn more about the TPHS Foundation or to donate, go to

— TPHS Foundation news release