Rebecca Carr, Director of Fundraising and Patient Services for HelpHOPELive, recently attended the 2014 Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals Conference. In honor of National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month, Rebecca reflects on inspiring things she learned at the conference.
Earlier this month I had the pleasure of representing HelpHOPELive at the 2014 ASCIP (Academy of Spinal Cord Injury Professionals) Educational Conference & Expo in St. Louis. As one of about 60 exhibitors in a large hall, I was pleased with the consistent traffic to my table. Physical therapists, doctors, case managers and others came by, introduced themselves, and left with HelpHOPELive brochures in hand, prepared to pass them along to their clients. For many visitors it was their first exposure to our organization. It is always a pleasure to describe our services to someone who hasn’t heard of HelpHOPELive before. Eyes widen and I hear a lot of “wow, what a great service you provide” and “why haven’t I heard of you before?” Community fundraising is often a vital untapped resource that can help people pay for uncovered medical expenses.
For my own education, it was fascinating to see what others were exhibiting. The array of equipment available today for people living with SCI is truly impressive. I enjoyed watching demonstrations of several types of exoskeletons – wearable electronic suits – that enable paralyzed individuals to stand up and walk with mechanical assistance. People with high-level injuries zipped by in specialized wheelchairs, controlling their speed and direction with tiny head movements. It was gratifying to know that my colleagues and I can help people fundraise for these innovative technologies that can improve people’s daily lives.
One inspiring exhibit took place right next to my table. A young man named Jesse was quietly sitting and painting. Jesse is a quadriplegic who was injured a couple of years ago. An artist before he was injured, he decided about a year after his injury that he was still an artist and had to find a way to get back to his painting. So very quietly, Jesse sat in his wheelchair, with a towel and several brushes in his lap, and painted with his mouth. It took him most of the day, and at one point he even painted over a section because he wasn’t happy with it, but he kept working. At times, there was a small crowd gathered around Jesse. Patiently, he would put down his brush to answer questions of those around him, and then he’d go back to work. What he created was amazing. Inspiring, truly.