United Spinal Affiliation’s yearlong #StrongWheeled Collectively marketing campaign culminated in November with its first-ever Member Awards Gala, a digital celebration of the energy of the SCI/D group. With awards, musical performances and extra, the gala highlighted United Spinal’s efforts to empower wheelchair customers to stay the lives they select, and to boost public consciousness about the advantages of variety, fairness and inclusion in serving to individuals with disabilities uncover larger independence.
“Our #StrongWheeled Collectively marketing campaign is a tribute to the collective energy of United Spinal’s members and grassroots advocacy leaders. Collectively we’re constructing a greater future for individuals with spinal twine accidents and all wheelchair customers whereas honoring our previous,” stated occasion emcee and Ms. Wheelchair America 2020, Hilary Muehlberger.
The gala celebrated a brand new era of leaders with an evening of leisure and training whereas commemorating the historic figures who helped pave the best way. United Spinal CEO Vincenzo Piscopo introduced Judy Heumann with the Lifetime Impression Award for her many years of tireless advocacy.
“After I look again at every thing I’ve completed, I discover that none of it will have been doable with out the roots Judy Heumann laid down by means of her unbelievable advocacy. Presenting Judy with the Lifetime Impression Award was extremely thrilling, in addition to humbling,” stated Piscopo. “Her knowledge is incomparable. She shared a wealth of data and has an unbelievable heat.”
The gala additionally introduced the winners of the #StrongWheeled Collectively Awards, every of whom obtained $5,000 grants for his or her management within the areas of Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Performing Arts, Sports activities and Recreation, Visible Arts and Writing, and Youth Management.
Fifteen finalists have been chosen amongst a various pool of nominees from across the nation. These finalists crafted movies about their lives and achievements that have been printed on United Spinal’s YouTube channel. The award winners obtained probably the most likes on YouTube in every class.
“We created our #StrongWheeled Collectively Awards to boost consciousness of the presents and skills of our group’s artists, athletes, innovators and leaders. It’s our highly effective technique to help their impactful work. And it demonstrates that we’re #StrongWheeled Collectively in our larger battle for recognition, equality, justice and inclusion,” stated Piscopo.
To observe the gala, join membership with United Spinal at unitedspinal.org, the place you may also discover info on peer help and changing into an advocate or a member of its chapter community.
And the #StrongWheeled Collectively Award Goes to …
Entrepreneurship and Innovation: Erik Kondo
Erik Kondo is advancing innovation and creativity within the subject of adaptive mobility. He has pioneered the idea of “wheelchairboarding” as a technique of adapting present mobility units for pleasant and high-performance mobility for wheelchair customers.
“Profitable this award offers me the chance to advertise two areas that I’m enthusiastic about: encouraging do-it-yourself improvements and the necessity to advance entrepreneurship for individuals with spinal twine harm/illness,” stated Kondo. “I plan to make use of the funds to construct and host web sites for choose individuals with spinal twine accidents and issues to assist them with their enterprises. I will even use the funds to assist individuals in Nigeria with SCI/D begin a small enterprise to allow them to maintain themselves.”
Performing Arts: Dominick Evans
Dominick Evans is a disabled and nonbinary transgender director, screenwriter and Hollywood advisor. He directed the 2021 music video for James Ian’s tune “Areas,” capturing the best way individuals within the Spinal Muscular Atrophy group stay their lives and occupy their very own distinctive “areas.”
He plans to place the grant cash towards his group, FilmDis, which advocates for genuine illustration and inclusion of disabled individuals in entrance of and behind the lens. “We’re utilizing the funds to rent somebody to assist us with our FilmDis research into incapacity illustration on tv. We now have a knowledge analyst who’s going to assist us compile our newest research, which will likely be launched initially of 2023.”
Evans is growing tv pilots and hopes to be the primary disabled individual to be the showrunner of a tv present from their dwelling. “I used to be in a position to direct a music video that means and I imagine I can present Hollywood simply what the disabled group is able to when they’re accommodated.”
Sports activities and Recreation: Antonio Martin
Detroit native Antonio Martin’s purpose was at all times to play within the NFL, however when he turned paralyzed from a gunshot wound in 2012, he needed to rethink his plan. He determined to assist different proficient soccer gamers from his hometown play skilled soccer, despite the fact that he not might, so he began his enterprise, Bros 2 Execs Sporting Company & Mentoring.
Martin additionally joined Group USA Paralympic Powerlifting. He has traveled all around the world to compete within the sport and holds the American document in his weight class for the final three years, lifting 502 kilos.
“Profitable this award means so much to me as a result of it’s my first award since being disabled. This award has impressed me to proceed to compete on the highest stage and do extra for the disabled group,” stated Martin. “I plan on utilizing this grant cash on my subsequent competitors so I can compete on the 2024 Paralympic Video games. I’ve additionally began a spinal twine harm meetup to assist people with disabilities to proceed to be energetic and social.”
Visible Arts and Writing: Yesenia Torres
Since changing into paralyzed seven years in the past, Yesenia Torres has devoted herself to serving the incapacity group by advocating for modifications in laws and peer mentoring. She is a group chief on the Colombian Consulate, a board member on the Brooklyn Middle for Independence of the Disabled, a council member of New York State Unbiased Dwelling Council and the accessibility outreach coordinator on the New York Metropolis Taxi and Limousine Fee.
Her first ebook, Destinada a Renacer, paperwork the arduous passages of her life to encourage people who find themselves going by means of difficulties. She is ending the second ebook from the trilogy, Towards the Horizon, and is happy in regards to the last ebook. “I’ll use the grant cash to pay for my editor bills, ebook illustration design, publishing and translation into English,” she stated.
Youth Management: Anna Sarol
Anna Sarol is a coach, adaptive athlete, keynote speaker, social media blogger and incapacity advocate. She makes use of her Instagram web page to teach others on spinal twine harm and to advocate for inclusion and fairness. “There’s a variety of time, effort and care that goes into every particular person content material that I add,” says Sarol. “Regardless of what one may see as a 30-second video, I do know it took me 5-6 hours to supply. All of it’s price it, understanding that I’m doing my half to make the world a greater place. Profitable this award jogs my memory that I’m not solely making a constructive influence, however a long-lasting one.
“I’m an enormous advocate for prioritizing shoulder well being as a wheelchair consumer. I perceive the power ache we are able to usually expertise, and I’d love to assist others alleviate this hassle. As a part of my plan, I’ll use the grant cash to buy muscle remedy weapons for different wheelchair customers to make use of at any time when their our bodies want them.” The remedy weapons ship percussive therapeutic massage for muscle soreness, ache and restoration.
The gala was additionally full of performances by musicians from the incapacity group, together with:
• Hip-hop duo 4 Wheel Metropolis, in a enjoyable, celebratory efficiency. These two United Spinal members carry out with well-known rap stars like Snoop Dogg, and but they at all times discover time to talk at faculties and supply peer help.
• Recording artist Kebra Moore, whose tune “He’ll Make a Manner” was featured on the soundtrack of Turning into Barack: Evolution of a Chief.
• 2020 American Idol contestant Marna Michele, who was coached by Katy Perry and Luke Bryan to sing Girl Gaga’s “Million Causes.”