For Matt Long, dreams are the same as goals.
But dreams can't simply be expected to come true -- he believes one has to set goals to get there.
After the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Long, a New York City firefighter, wanted to take his body to its highest level possible, so that meant participating in marathons and Ironman competitions.
Long was already having success when, in December 2005, he was hit by a bus while riding his bike. He said he was given a 1 percent chance to live, but following 42 surgeries, five months in the hospital, fighting depression and going through rehab, he finished the New York City Marathon less than three years after his accident and also completed Lake Placid's Ironman. The finishes showed him, "I'm back -- I'm an athlete again."
It was all a process of setting goals as high as possible and not thinking about what he couldn't do.
Those were the messages he shared as guest speaker of the 24th Annual Boys & Girls Clubs of the CSRA's Steak & Burger Dinner Tuesday night at Augusta State's Christenberry Fieldhouse.
After telling his story, Long, who shared his experiences in the book The Long Run: A New York City Firefighter's Triumphant Comeback from Crash Victim to Elite Athlete , said the moral is about not telling one's self what "I can't" do.
"Replace it with 'I will' and you'll have nothing but success the rest of your life," Long said.
Long, 44, has been a New York City firefighter for 17 years and currently teaches at the firefighter academy. He hoped his messages hit home for the kids at the dinner.
"It's inspiring for me that I can inspire them," Long said.
The Boys & Girls Clubs of the CSRA, which helps more than 1,600 area children and announced the name change from the Boys & Girls Clubs of Augusta on Tuesday, also gave awards to nine youths for their accomplishments.
Four received the Youth of the Year Award, the Clubs' most prestigious honor, and five got the Service & Leadership Award. Quintavious Brown was named the CSRA's Youth of the Year.
Board President Mark Bowling said Long had the odds stacked against him after his accident, just like some Augusta-area kids.
Bowling said the Boys & Girls Clubs of the CSRA is all about extending a hand to kids who need help, and Long called such an extension an olive branch for those who ask for help.
Bowling said Tuesday's dinner was important to make sure there will be future hands being stretched out to assist those in need, as all proceeds go to the after school programs and summer camp.
"Can we save them all? No," Bowling said. "But if we can save one, that's one less kid in the system. That's one less kid we lose."