Tag Archives: spinal cord injury fundraising

My Health, Independence and Financial Challenges 5 Years After Injury

Danielle Watson became paralyzed from the waist down in June 2011. In May 2016, Danielle completed her master’s in occupational therapy.


People are shocked all the time that I drive and live independently. I don’t blame them, because I didn’t know what people with disabilities could do either, until my injury. I have managed (with help from others) to figure out how to live independently.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

“I have managed to figure out how to live independently.”

I consider my wheelchair to be an extension of myself at this point. It really bothers me to hear the terms “confined to a wheelchair” or “wheelchair bound” because the wheelchair is an awesome machine that allows me to be independent. I also rely on my NuProdx shower bench and I now have one on the toilet, too, to prevent pressure sores. My car is also an important part of my independence. It has been adapted with hand controls.

I have had increasing complications with my health over the past 5 years. Unfortunately, spinal cord injury affects many of my bodily systems, so I must continue to adapt. The average person doesn’t realize that I am not just sitting. That is the easiest part. Spinal cord injury affects all body systems. I usually keep this hidden from people and try to portray that I have everything together. However, I constantly have to think about my bladder, my digestion, my bones, my joints, my body mechanics, avoiding pressure sores, my temperature, my water intake…the list goes on!

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

Danielle fell 250 feet. The injury “affects many of my bodily systems”

Therapy has had a huge impact on my life. I am so grateful to have had so many good health professionals after my injury. I already wanted to be a therapist before my accident, but my injury introduced me to occupational therapy, which I had never heard of before. My hope is that I can use my personal experience and empathy to help others after a life-altering injury.

I have faced significant financial challenges since the injury. By the time I get my license to practice OT, I will have been unemployed for almost 6 years. I have student loans from undergraduate schooling that I have been unable to pay off and they have been accumulating interest. I had to decide if I would be able to live my life on social security or minimum wage or take on the loans and the hope for a better life. I am trying to do the right thing and support myself financially.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

“I am trying to do the right thing and support myself financially.”

HelpHOPELive has thankfully shielded me from many of the medical expenses that go along with this injury. I don’t know how I would survive without it. There are a lot of supplies and pieces of equipment that I need that Medicare doesn’t cover. Sometimes Medicare makes errors and I get stuck with huge medical bills. I have lived in five different places within the last 5 years and I have had to renovate them all to make them accessible. When I begin to work, I will lose Medicare and I will have private insurance, but I am thankful to HelpHOPELive for helping me cover deductibles, medications and procedures through fundraising.

The HelpHOPELive campaign in my honor has been extremely important because I don’t have to agonize over purchases or costs that are medically necessary or helpful in maintaining my independence, which really contributes to my mental health. I have so many other worries with my spinal cord injury that it is really helpful to have one less worry.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

Fundraising helps Danielle to live independently.

I was introduced to adaptive sports 6 months after my injury. I skied as soon as I was medically able. Oregon Adaptive Sports has been crucial to my recovery–I received scholarships for the lessons I needed to learn to ski and they have been a family to me. I met most of my friends though OAS and I continue to be a participant and an advocate for the organization. HelpHOPELive helps with the expenses that are not covered by the scholarships I get.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

Danielle participates in adaptive sports, triathlons and marathons.

I love to travel now just as much as I did before my injury. Having the right equipment really helps. I have a shower chair that comes apart and fits into a small square bag. That has made travel a lot easier, and I bring it with me everywhere. I want to travel the world but currently it is easier and more accessible for me to travel within the United States because of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

Travel is easier for Danielle with the right adaptive equipment.

I look forward to being self-sufficient again. I look forward to buying a home someday that I can renovate for my needs, and I look forward to getting into a routine that will allow me to finally get my finances under control.

Thankfully, I have a degree in philosophy, so I had a lot of time to think about big questions before my injury. I believe in the power of your thoughts and your words to manifest your life. I try my best to shed the thoughts that don’t serve me well and think positively. I have gotten better at this over time and I believe it is something you can practice until it becomes more natural. Having a disability can be alright if you have access to the right equipment and support, which is why HelpHOPELive is so necessary.

Danielle Watson HelpHOPELive

“Having a disability can be alright if you have access to the right equipment and support.”


Learn more about Danielle and make a contribution in her honor at helphopelive.org. Follow her blog for ongoing insights on life and possibilities after injury.

New Video: Fundraising Changed My Life After A Spinal Cord Injury

In 2007, Jeff Harris was enjoying July 4 on the beach with friends when the unthinkable happened. “We were kicking a soccer ball around on the beach and my buddy kicked the ball in the water,” explained Jeff. As he dove into the water, “I hit right around the top of my head at the right angle, at the right speed, at the right tilt of the universe.”

Jeff broke his neck and became a C6 quadriplegic.

After they dealt with the initial shock and emotional trauma of Jeff’s injury, his family quickly began to realize how expensive life with paralysis would be. “It’s almost hopeless to get insurance companies to provide what these spinal cord injury patients need to have a great life,” said Jeff’s mom, Jan.

Jeff was facing extreme out-of-pocket expenses and co-pays. “Wheelchairs cost tens of thousands of dollars,” said Jeff, and that’s not to mention “medical bills and daily supplies” he would need for the rest of his life. Fundraising with HelpHOPELive changed Jeff’s life. “HelpHOPELive was a life ring for us,” said Jeff’s dad, Steve. “They know what works and they are able to give advice to folks like us who have never done this sort of thing before.”

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With support from their community, Jeff and his family planned an annual fundraiser that incorporated curling, one of Jeff’s biggest passions before his injury. The Curl-a-thon in honor of Jeff will soon enter its tenth year. “For these two days when we hold the Curl-a-thon, I am so humbled,” said dad Steve. “Everyone in Jeff’s sphere was just looking for a way to help him.

We’re proud to present our newest HelpHOPELive video featuring Jeff’s fundraising story. Tell us what you think by Tweeting @HelpHOPELiveOrg!

Jeff Harris HelpHOPELive Curl-a-Thon

Fundraising has helped Jeff to pursue independence and mobility

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.

Motivated By Love, One Family Launched The ‘Project’ Of A Lifetime

Paul Pickard founded Project Walk Atlanta in 2011 with his wife, Jeannie, and his son, Chris, who was paralyzed in a car accident when he was 18 years old. We asked Paul about spinal cord injury rehabilitation and his motivation for opening Project Walk Atlanta.

Project Walk Atlanta staff


What did you know about Project Walk when you founded Project Walk Atlanta?


Other than knowing that God placed it on our heart to build the facility in Atlanta, I really didn’t know that much about the PW network. When we founded our center, there was no research or due diligence before building. As crazy as it sounds, in the middle of a recession, we built PWA solely on faith, without a business plan.

What I know today about the four Project Walk centers — located in Orlando, Kansas City, Dallas and Austin — is that they are all very passionate about helping people with spinal cord injuries. These centers opened because there was a serious need in their community and their lives. Each center is filled with love and compassion for its clients.


Can services like the ones offered at Project Walk Atlanta significantly improve quality of life for people who have spinal cord injuries?


All human bodies require movement and some level of exercise. At a bare minimum, people with spinal cord injuries learn how to get their body moving to connect with their paralyzed limbs. Daily quality of life factors such as eating, scratching an itch, brushing teeth, etc. are addressed with our services by training the neuromuscular system.

Project Walk Sarah


What are some examples of modern spinal cord injury therapy equipment or technology used at Project Walk Atlanta?


We are fortunate to carry the entire suite of Restorative Therapy Functional Electrical Stimulation machines: RT600, RT300 and RT200. FES coordinates neuromuscular re- education by firing respective muscles in the same order as when a person moves. Some other exciting pieces of equipment:

-The locomotor treadmill is an innovative intervention that helps individuals with gait impairments. The technique is an activity-based therapy that works to retrain the spinal cord to “remember” the pattern of walking again.

Vibration platform training excites additional muscle fibers to become engaged, improves bone density, and increases circulation and aerobic capacity.

Tissue regenerative technology uses shock wave energy for tissue regeneration, reducing scar tissue around the injury point and activating the autonomic nervous system.

The Bioness H200 is electrical stimulation prosthetic for the hands.

Project Walk Nick


Which innovations or technological advances are you most excited about for the future?


Dr. Scott Bertrand’s core development and training devices are promising. Currently in use at his office in Georgia, this device uses rotational mechanics of an isolated muscle contraction on each side of your core to fully engage activity. Other devices that are promising involve body weight-supported gait training which measures speed, stride length, stride width, tempo and weight-bearing percentage to drive performance improvements. And, finally, a new device being made for clinical use is exciting: an EMG portable unit that will measure exact muscle activity, providing the user and the clinician the ability to discern appropriate techniques leading to neuromuscular activity below the level of injury for our clients.


Did your son’s injury influence your outlook on spinal cord damage, therapy, or life in general?


I find myself not complaining as much anymore because I really, really hate this injury with a passion. In a flash of a second, your entire life changes forever. It doesn’t creep up on you; it just annihilates your world.

Chris Pickard Jeanie Pickard Paul Pickard Project Walk Atlanta Georgia


Does Chris continue to make progress with his own rehabilitation journey?


Rehabilitation takes form in several ways. It is not only physical; it is also spiritual and mental. Chris has made great strides in all three.


What keeps your family moving forward?


FAITH, without a doubt. The strength that our faith in Jesus Christ has given us is the glue that has held us together. There were many nights spent crying, asking God for answers and even getting angry with God. We will never understand nor should we expect to. Without faith and prayer, this injury could become overwhelming at times.


Does your family’s personal experience give you unique insights to share with other families who come to Project Walk Atlanta?


You learn very quickly how to adapt to this injury. At Project Walk Atlanta, every client becomes part of a bigger family that shares and loves one another. We are there to pray with you or cry — whichever!

Project Walk Joe


Is cost a significant barrier to SCI rehabilitation for some families?


Cost is the biggest barrier. If you have a premium insurance policy, you might get reimbursed 75%. Otherwise, you have to rely on fundraising. Although we try to provide scholarships when we can, it is very important that we teach our clients how to fundraise. The average person has never asked for money or knows how. Although there are many online fundraising sites, I always point them to HelpHOPELive where they will get the best guidance to raise funds.


Based on your son Chris’s fundraising efforts with HelpHOPELive, what are some of the costs that SCI-affected families can expect to face 3 to 5 years after injury?


Medical supplies, housing adaptation, standing frames, FES bikes and vehicle modification are a few expenses that can be anticipated


What piece(s) of advice would you offer to someone who was recently injured? What would you tell his or her family?


The advice that I would give someone is to begin fundraising early. This injury is so devastating on families financially that most families can end up in bankruptcy. Everything is so expensive and most insurance will not pay for long-term therapy. Medicaid pays for catheters but won’t pay for suppositories. Go figure!


The PWA website notes: “Everyone needs hope. Without hope you can’t recover.” Do you think that hope or a positive attitude can alter the rehabilitation process?


Absolutely. Without hope, what do you have? Every person affected by spinal cord injury has or once had hope that he or she would recover. Unfortunately, most acute hospitals’ doctors knock the wind from your sail by making statements like “you will not ever walk again” or “get used to the wheelchair.” At the end of the day, only God knows what anyone’s outcome really is.

I know many people that were told they would never walk and now they are beginning to take their first steps, crawl or even walk again. It is that hope and the belief in themselves that helped them get to that point.

Project Walk equipment


Connect with Project Walk Atlanta on Facebook to learn more about spinal cord injury rehabilitation. You can follow Chris Pickard’s journey on his Campaign Page.

 

Fundraising With HelpHOPELive: Your First Steps

Once you have decided to move forward with fundraising, it’s time to start engaging your community! Talk to your HelpHOPELive Fundraising Coordinator about your family, friends and local area so we can help you decide which fundraising approach will work best for your campaign.

to do list notebook gray desk


If you’re not sure where to begin, these ideas will get you started:

  • My aunt Mary is a teacher. Could I ask Mary about holding a fundraiser through her school?
  • My friend Joseph is an avid golfer. Could a golf tournament be our big fundraising event for this year?
  • My town holds a yearly Strawberry Festival and a 5K Race to benefit a local citizen. How can I contact my town administration to find out more about getting involved in these upcoming events to raise money for HelpHOPELive?
  • I’m active in my church or faith community. Could we have a special collection in my honor or distribute my HelpHOPELive appeal letter to members?
  • My 10-year high school reunion is coming up. How can I get in touch with some of my former classmates who are local or live out-of-state?
  • A friend of my parents sells kitchen storage containers. Would she be willing to hold a container-buying party in my honor?
  • Before I worked with HelpHOPELive, my friends helped me hold a local Dinner Dance. Since that was a big success, maybe we can hold a similar event this year?
  • My cousin, my sister and my friend Marie all asked how they could help or support me as soon as I was diagnosed. Can I reach out to these contacts first to ask for help with planning, promoting and staffing my next event?

You can find a list of fundraising event ideas online in your HelpHOPELive Dashboard. Contact your Fundraising Coordinator today if you’re ready to start planning your event!

Air Force Airman and Firefighter Refuses to Be Extinguished By Spinal Cord Injury

In July of 2014, a simple trip to the beach changed Air Force airman John Michael LeMoine’s life forever.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive Air Force

John LeMoine in his Air Force uniform.

John was enrolled in a firefighting technical school in San Angelo, Texas. On a rare day off, John decided to head down to the lakefront with his friends to enjoy the early summer sun. While he and his friends were goofing around, John had to leap into the air to avoid a child playing on the shore. John managed to avoid harming the child, but as he fell, John landed on his neck and shattered his cervical spine (C-6).

John entered a state of cardiac arrest. Thankfully surrounded by his firefighting co-trainees, he was quickly transported to a trauma facility, where he remained in critical condition. Described as a fighter by his supporters, after spending three days in the ICU, LeMoine slowly recuperated from his near-death cardiac emergency. Within six weeks, John had committed himself fully to recovery from his spinal cord injury.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive ICU

John spent three days in the ICU following his injury.

A C-6 spinal cord injury can cause patients to experience bladder dysfunction, uncontrollable blood pressure and heart rate, body temperature spikes, muscle atrophy, bodily pains and osteoporosis. The recovery process requires hospitalization, rehabilitation and ongoing medical costs that can total over $2 million over the course of a lifetime.

It took six weeks of intensive therapy before John managed to wiggle his left big toe.

At Shepherd Center, an Atlanta rehabilitation hospital, and Project Walk Atlanta, an exercise-based recovery facility, John began to make steady progress. Using the Lokomat, a robotic machine to stimulate movement in the lower extremities, John finally began to wiggle his toes. According to his rehabilitation team, the Lokomat offered John the best possible chance to regain the ability to walk – but the cost of using the machine would become prohibitive once John’s insurance allotment ran dry.

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive Lokomat

John needed extensive rehabilitation to regain mobility.

Thanks to donations to HelpHOPELive from friends and supporters, on March 4, Project Walk Atlanta reported that John was able to stand completely independently. Next to a picture of a smiling John, the Project Walk team noted, “He has put in a lot of hard work to get where he is now, and we are excited to see where he is going to go from here.”

HelpHOPELive John LeMoine stands

John stands on his own for the first time since his accident.

John is looking ahead to a life of continued selflessness. As supporters note on John’s HelpHOPELive Campaign Page, “His wish is to remain in the Air Force and continue to be [an] airman, and if at all possible, to somehow go toward the fire again.” John’s accident could not eclipse his desire to serve. “If anyone knows the heart of a fireman, you know that they are the most selfless people in our lives,” his supporters confirm.

John receives continual support and encouragement from his “Air Force family,” his friends and “even strangers who have given us support and strength from the beginning,” notes his Campaign Page.

HelpHOPELive John LeMoine nephew

John pursues recovery with support from nephew Jake…

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive niece

…and niece Lily.

John’s supporters have thanked donors for “the outpouring of love and support” they have received so far. “Every one of you have helped us meet our goal for John’s continued therapy,” they note. “We have all learned so much about ourselves and the goodness of people…These donations will allow him to strengthen his ability to walk again and meet those financial challenges.”

John LeMoine HelpHOPELive family

John’s family and supporters thank the community.

John is looking to friends, Air Force peers and family for continued support as he makes major strides in his recovery.

You can give John your support by reaching out on Facebook or on Twitter and following his recovery at helphopelive.org.

If you or someone you know is struggling with the medical costs associated with a spinal cord injury, reach out to us at helphopelive.org. Our team can help you to fundraise online and in your local community to offset your uninsured medical expenses.