Tag Archives: home modification

Mobility Matters: Community Support Can Open Doors After Injury

As Mobility Awareness Month continues, we hear from Cole Sydnor, who was 16 when a diving accident left him paralyzed from the chest down. Today, almost five years after the accident, loved ones describe him as a fierce competitor, a compassionate friend and a community member dedicated to giving back.

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

Cole coaches the Richmond Sportable Spokes wheelchair basketball team


Are mobility and independence important to you?


Mobility and independence are important no matter who you are. For me specifically, they are of the utmost importance, because a spinal cord injury can prohibit one from enjoying them freely. It has taken great effort to recover some semblance of the mobility and independence I once had. Now that I have, mobility and independence are allowing me to successfully navigate college and even hold a full-time internship away from home.


How has physical therapy impacted your life?


Without physical therapy, not only would I have an incomplete understanding of what I am capable of, I wouldn’t even have built up the strength to reach that potential.


What financial challenges has your family faced since the injury?


Financially, expenses were centered on making everything accessible. That began with adding an elevator to my house and converting my room and bathroom so they would be completely accessible—all three projects were very expensive. We also had to purchase a truck which could accommodate a specific (wheelchair) lift so that I’d be able to drive.

Cole Sydnor HelpHOPELive

The financial strain on Cole’s family was “significant” after injury

To this day, any medical expenses deemed unnecessary by insurance fall on my family, and it becomes their responsibility to make those purchases out of pocket. Expenses add up quickly. One current expense is outpatient physical therapy. On top of paying for college, the financial strain has been significant.


How did your community support you after you were injured?


At the time, I was certain that my life had been irreparably changed for the worse. Motivating myself was not enough to get my butt in gear, so I relied on friends and family to help me find that motivation to work towards recovery. I was able to lean on my loved ones whose encouragement was neverending. Without that presence constantly pushing me forward, it’s likely that I’d still be swallowed by despair, doing nothing and helping no one.

Expenses which go uncovered by insurance can rack up quickly. My elevator, room and bathroom renovation, and truck were all expenses that our community rallied to help fund. Without my community, we would have had no shot at those things and more.

Cole Syndor HelpHOPELive

Friends and family were a big source of support


Can you describe how it felt to go to college away from home?


Well, I was very nervous and apprehensive about going away to college. What comforted me was the proximity of campus to my home and the fact that my brother was going to be living with me. Like when I was first injured, I really relied on the encouragement and support of my friends and loved ones to make the leap to living on campus.

In hindsight, I was over-worried. The transition was surprisingly smooth, largely due to the very accommodating services of University of Richmond. They put in hard paths where they may have only been an off-road path, moved classes to the most accessible buildings, and placed me in a spacious room centrally located on campus.


What do you think the average person doesn’t realize about spinal cord injuries?


The average person may not understand the extent to which our injuries affect us “behind the scenes.” Most people only encounter people with spinal cord injuries when they are out in public but are never exposed to what it takes for them to shower, dress, use the restroom, etc. Those are the hardest parts about living with a spinal cord injury and unless someone makes an effort to understand, he or she may never realize it.


What are you most proud of?


I’ve been able to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries and spread a message about the importance of diving safety to youth in my community and beyond. A mother told me a story of how her son jumped off a river dock and broke his leg, not realizing that the water was very shallow. She was angry with him, but then he told her, “Mom, I didn’t dive. I remembered Cole’s story.”

Cole Sydnor

Cole is proud of his diving safety advocacy work


What are you looking forward to this year?


First and foremost, I’m looking forward to helping out with a fundraising event which will benefit a foundation that offers private scholarships for varsity or collegiate athletes who have been injured or become chronically ill. Next, I would say graduating from college. After that, if I could land a stable job in my field of interest, I would be stoked.

Most of all though, I look forward to the day that there is a cure for spinal cord injuries. My life would be transformed in an instant, the same way it was on the day I was injured. To me, the word “hope” means that one day I’ll walk again.


Do you know someone who needs community support to live a mobile and independent life after injury? Learn more about fundraising for mobility essentials at helphopelive.org. Mobility matters!

Meet Help Award Honoree Team Libby Judge

Each year at HelpHOPELive’s annual signature fundraising event, HelpHOPE-Live It Up!, we honor community heroes who prove why our mission matters with the Help, HOPE and Live awards. In 2015, we’re also giving out an Advocacy and Volunteer of the Year award.

This year, the Help award will go to Team Libby Judge for excellence in fundraising.

On March 15, 2014, Libby Judge, a West Chester, Pennsylvania mother and grandmother, was in a car accident that left her paralyzed from the chest down. After the injury, Libby’s family learned they would face medical and related expenses estimated to cost between $500,000 and $3 million throughout Libby’s lifetime. Libby and her family faced an immense burden emotionally, physically and financially. Fortunately, their community stepped up to meet that burden with unyielding love and powerful fundraising assistance.

Libby Judge family HelpHOPELive

Libby Judge (center) pre-injury with her family.

Friends and community members who had played tennis and golf with Libby volunteered to serve as team members of a fundraising campaign in her honor. Coordinating with HelpHOPELive, “Team Libby Judge” quickly drafted an appeal letter to the community at large to jumpstart fundraising efforts on her behalf, and managed to secure an initial donation within the first 24 hours — and the outpouring of support continued from there and hasn’t faltered.

Team Libby Judge

Team Libby Judge members Chuck Walsh and Laura and Joe Santoleri.

Team Libby Judge planned to hold the first major fundraising event in Libby’s honor at a favorite local pub, featuring food and drinks, a silent auction, multiple raffles and a live musical performance. Team members created an event flyer, auction item solicitation letter and online event registration page with support from HelpHOPELive.

Libby Judge bracelet HelpHOPELive

Team Libby Judge devoted themselves to supporting Libby through fundraising.

The members of Team Libby Judge truly committed themselves to fundraising, explained HelpHOPELive Fundraising Coordinator Joni Henderson: “It was their early morning job. For at least an hour and a half each morning and throughout the afternoon, these families did everything they could to ensure the fundraiser would be a success.” And it was.

On June 6, 2014, over 600 members of the local community gathered to show their support. The event exceeded expectations, raising more money than the organizers had hoped for. Instead of resting on the success of that first fundraising effort, Team Libby Judge continued having regular meetings to make plans for additional fundraisers, including tennis tournaments, a jewelry open house and a percentage of sales night held during a popular annual holiday shopping event in Libby’s area.

Libby Judge Live It Up event HelpHOPELive

Team Libby Judge coordinated auction items for the first fundraising event in her honor.

Libby Judge Live It Up event HelpHOPELive 2

A collage at the first annual fundraiser recognizes Libby’s life and loved ones.

In addition to contributing their time and energy to event planning, family and friends also helped with a house renovation project that added an accessible addition to Libby’s home. “Team Libby Judge went above and beyond,” said Joni Henderson. “No one understood the magnitude of their reach in the community until these events began to come together. They changed Libby’s life with their actions.”

Libby Judge spinal cord injury fundraising HelpHOPELive home renovations

Team Libby Judge helped renovate Libby’s home to improve accessibility.

Over a year post-accident, thanks to the groundwork established by Team Libby Judge, family and friends continue to come out in droves to show their love and support for Libby and her family as they heal from her 2014 spinal cord injury.

Libby Judge

Libby and her family continue to heal with support from Team Libby Judge.

On October 16, 2015, HelpHOPELive will recognize Team Libby Judge with the Help award for excellence in fundraising. We thank these special individuals for their time, energy and compassion.

help-hope-live-it-upThe Help award will be presented to Team Libby Judge at this year’s HelpHOPE-Live it Up! benefit on October 16.