SCI Community Rallies For The Kelly Brush Ride
As of 9am on Tuesday, September 1 (11 days until the 15th Annual Kelly Brush Ride!), 2 of our top 3 fundraisers are great friends of the KBF who also happen to have spinal cord injuries themselves. Our Monday morning team meeting this week was dominated by amazement of these two individuals, so much so we decide to do a quick feature for all our Kelly Brush Ride participants. We want you to meet these two awesome people and find some fundraising inspiration of your own.
Liam Wagner (currently 3rd highest fundraiser at $7,326 with a goal of $10,000)
Liam is an incredible young man from upstate New York that came into the KBF Community in 2019 when he applied for a monoski because, in his words:
“Since my injury I felt that I had lost the feeling of excitement and passion about a sport. Immediately when I sat in a monoski for the first time, I felt myself regaining that excitement.”
You could say the relationship progressed really fast. We awarded him an Active Fund grant in the fall of 2019, met him for the first time in Breckenridge in December of 2019, skied with him at Stowe in January of 2020, and invited him to be a KBF Ambassador in February 2020 for—if you clicked on any of those links—obvious reasons.
Liam has a fairly low-level (Lumbar-4) incomplete injury. This means that while he uses a wheelchair for everyday mobility, he does still have some limited sensation and movement in his legs and nearly full abdominal and hip-flexor control, which is very helpful for a lot things, but especially skiing. For comparison, Kelly’s has a complete Therasic-7 injury, which means she has limited-to-no abdominal function (see injury level chart here).
Liam’s Kelly Brush Ride challenge: he wants to walk a mile—4 times around a track—using crutches and leg braces. This will require a HUGE amount of energy and commitment, possibly taking hours. While we don’t often highlight “walking” accomplishments, we couldn’t be prouder of Liam and his ambition.
Hugh Hawkins (currently top fundraiser at $10,823 with a goal of $12,500)
Hugh is a retired cardiologist in Cincinnati, Ohio who sustained a Cervical-level (neck) injury playing rugby as a young man in the 1970s. Hugh and his connections to Kelly and the KBF cannot be easily summarized in a short blog, but I’m going to try here:
Before Kelly’s injury (when Kelly and Zeke were already dating), Zeke’s sister did a post-graduate / pre-med year working as a physician’s aide to Hugh, a program he ran for years with William College graduates, his alma mater. Hugh’s wife is the aunt of a close friend of Kelly and Zeke’s (Jed Yeiser aka “the King”), again a friendship that pre-dates Kelly’s injury.
Hugh has always been a generous supporter of the KBF, but seeing the event go completely virtual in 2020, he realized that he could participate from Ohio using his Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) stationary bike. As he writes in his fundraising messages encouraging friends, family, and colleagues to donate to his Kelly Brush Ride:
“Although I have supported participants in this event, I had never been a participant until this year. Since the range of activities has also expanded, I figured that riding my electrical muscle stimulation bike would count. On September 12, I will do my daily 10.9 miles and pretend that the view outside is that of the Vermont countryside. In addition, I will be celebrating 32 years of 10.9 miles per day or approximately 125,000 miles, far more than I did on an actual road bike.”
Together, Liam and Hugh represent a diverse range of experience with spinal cord injury (4 years v 40+ years post-injury), different types of injuries (L-level v. C-level), and different ways of being active, but with a common goal: paying it forward to help others find joy, personal adventure, and fulfillment as they thrive in life with an SCI.
I hope the success of these two great friends of the KBF will inspire you find joy in your active lifestyle as well as pay it forward for those that need a little support to do the same.
Thank you all for your support of the Kelly Brush Foundation and this community!