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Spotlight Nonprofit: Giving hope and help to spinal cord injury survivors

LatinaLista — Nineteen-year-old Melinda Martinez, 26-year-old Kristine Reyes and 73-year-old Evaristo Herrera have something in common — they each suffered a catastrophic accident that has left them with significant spine problems. In some cases, their spines are so damaged they can no longer walk.

For these three individuals, whose families are strapped for cash to deal with life after surgery, any extra money would be a godsend. Thankfully, all three live in the San Diego, California area where a special organization is headquartered that supplies that extra money to survivors of spinal injuries.

HeadNorth, founded in 2006, is a unique organization whose mission is to meet the transitional needs of spinal cord injury survivors, from recovery to rehabilitation to the reintegration into an active lifestyle. With a condition that involves costs that can exceed $270,000 in the first year for a paraplegic and $740,000 for a quadriplegic, any financial respite for the victims and their families is appreciated.

HeadNorth awards $1,000 grants to individuals in need but that’s not all they do. Realizing that in San Diego alone there are over 3,000 people with spinal cord injuries, a population that unfortunately is increasing, HeadNorth is also actively partnering with a local hospital to find a cure for paralysis. They’ve created the HeadNorth Chronic Spinal Cord Injury Project, a spinal cord regeneration research study.

In addition to sponsoring research, giving money to ease the burden that comes with such a debilitating condition, HeadNorth also provides a page of resources for people with spinal cord injuries. From information about housing and where to find special clothing to legal aid and where to buy wheelchairs, the organization tries to meet the needs of those who must spend their days in a wheelchair.

The organization also operates three programs: Recover,Thrive and Peer, which help victims gradually resume their old lives. At the same time, HeadNorth works to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries and hosts an annual Day in a Chair event.

Every April, HeadNorth hosts its Annual Day in a Chair event where Board members, volunteers and friends participate to raise awareness. Teams of two participants, one a spinal cord injury survivor and the other an able-bodied volunteer, spend the day together, both in wheelchairs. The able-bodied teammate experiences the various challenges faced by individuals in wheelchairs everyday. All of the teams gather at a post-event party to share stories of their eye-opening day, ending the experience with a perspective on some of the daily challenges faced by those living with a spinal cord injury.

Three different types of donations are accepted — all of which are used to give “Hope and Help” to spinal cord injury survivors.

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