Last month we celebrated Florida Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week (November 10-17). Just a few days before that week started I was forwarded an email from FSCIRC news informing me of the observance. To be honest, I wasn’t aware Florida had a Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week and I figured if I wasn’t aware of it, than there are probably many other Florida residents that aren’t as well; what a great opportunity to write a blog.
There is one organization at the heart of this awareness week, The Darrel Gwynn Foundation. In 2006 the foundation successfully lobbied for and with a resolution passed by the Florida Legislature, created Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Week to generate awareness of spinal cord injuries and educate the public on ways to prevent them.
As a social media marketer, I did the only logical thing once I learned of this organization and quickly ran to check them out on Facebook and Twitter. To my surprise they have an awesome community of supporters, including NASCAR, DuPont Registry, and Barret-Jackson Auction Company (just to name a few).
If you couldn’t tell from the list of sponsors, the foundation has deep roots within the racing and automotive community. This is attributed to the founder of the organization, Darrell Gwynn. Gwynn was a professional drag racer at the height of his career when one day in 1990 during an exhibition race in England, he hit a retaining wall at 240mph. After fighting through several major life-threatening injuries, Gwynn survived but was left paralyzed and lost his left arm. However, he didn’t let his physical circumstances hold him back. He changed his role in racing from star driver to team owner and in 2002 founded the Darrell Gwynn Foundation.
Today Gwynn focuses all of his energy on his foundation, choosing to leave racing in 2003. Gwynn’s foundation works to provide support for people with paralysis and educate the public on how to prevent spinal cord injuries. The organization provides this support through 3 primary programs: a free education and prevention program presented to high school students in South Florida, a patient assistance fund, and a wheelchair donation program. As listed on their website, the Darrell Gwynn Foundation has educated 81,900 students, awarded $1,467,000 worth of grants, and donated 252 wheelchairs.
Perhaps the most interesting and touching program is the wheelchair donation program. This is no ordinary wheelchair donation program, and neither are the wheelchairs that are donated. Unlike many other wheelchair donation programs and related charities, the Darrell Gwynn Foundation specializes in high-tech, customized wheelchairs. These wheelchairs can range in value from $6000 to $40,000 depending on the medical needs of the recipient. They are equipped with many advanced systems such as seat elevators and upgraded suspension in order to improve each recipient’s quality of life. Many times insurance will not cover the cost of these advanced chairs and for many of the recipients, the Darrel Gwynn Foundation is their last resort. Individuals in need of a chair may begin the free application process by filling out a pre-application form via the Darrell Gwynn Foundation Website.
In closing I would like to give a big thanks to Darrell Gwynn and his foundation. They are making great efforts to improve the quality of life for those with spinal cord injury and educate the public on ways to prevent this life changing injury. I would highly reccomend visiting the Darrell Gwynn site and reading some of the remarkable stories they have to tell, they also have some pretty interesting videos to watch. Florida Spinal Cord Injury awareness week may be over, but the fight to help those with spinal cord injuries continues, and the Darrell Gwynn Foundation is leading the charge!