In Edie’s Words – Who We Are and Why
To all our supporters, new and old, thank you so much for being a part of the KBF community. The Kelly Brush Ride is such a special day every year, because we get to see so many familiar faces, and welcome thousands of new ones as well. I want to share how we started, what we do, and where we are headed, so that the Kelly Brush Ride will mean as much to you, as it does to us.
In 2006, Kelly Brush was paralyzed from the chest down after suffering a spinal cord injury (SCI) at an NCAA alpine ski race. After catching an edge, Kelly slid off the course and into an unprotected lift tower, changing her life in an instant. That same year, the Middlebury College ski team held the first ever Kelly Brush Ride, to help raise money so Kelly could afford a monoski, and get back to the slopes with them.
After the success of that first Ride, Kelly and her family realized the impact adaptive sports would have on her life, and could have on the lives of thousands of other people living with spinal cord injuries (SCI). In the years that followed, the Kelly Brush Foundation grew from a fledgling organization with no full time employees into one of the largest granting organizations for people with SCI.
Our Mission and Vision
Our mission is to inspire and empower people with spinal cord injuries to lead active and engaged lives.
Our ultimate goal is to ensure that each journey after an SCI is easier than the last. The KBF seeks to provide every person with an SCI with access to the knowledge, resources, and funding, as soon as possible after an injury, to start – and thrive – in their journeys to independence. We have proven the impact adaptive sports can have after an SCI, and now we hope to scale that work to help as many of the 17,500 new injuries in the US every year as possible.
What we’ve achieved so far
In the last 17 years, we have awarded over 1,400 grants for adaptive sports equipment (through our flagship program, the Active Fund), totaling more than $3.25 million. This year alone, we will be giving out more than $1 million in equipment for the first time ever.
To ensure more people have the chance to discover adaptive sports, we have disbursed over $400,000 in program funding & scholarships to help people with SCI get active for the first time, bridging the gap from injury to independence. In addition, we also piloted the Active Project, a community & learning platform dedicated to adaptive sports. Our pilot received over 10,000 visitors in 8 months, leading us to launch the development of the official platform.
To immerse people in adaptive sports, we have also hosted and funded five camps in the last two years, allowing people of various experience levels the opportunity to deepen their knowledge and community connections.
And to continue supporting our heritage, and the community that launched the KBF, we have dedicated over $400,000 in the last five years to increase ski racing safety through course safety improvements and safety planning advocacy to prevent accidents like Kelly’s from ever happening again.
Where we are going
We often discuss the cost barriers to getting active after a spinal cord injury, because in some ways, those are the easiest to address. However, the emotional and knowledge barriers to an active life can be just as difficult to overcome. We see the future of our work focusing on these intangible barriers, and how we can guide people from injury to independence, and join them earlier on their journeys.
We will continue to grow the Active Fund, as much as possible, and expect it to continue to be the largest use of funding. However, we want to continue diversifying our programs to focus on the key areas that will engage, inspire, and empower people to reach the point of true independence. For many, there is a long road before owning their own equipment is feasible, or even useful, and we believe we can play a critical role in easing that journey, and guiding them through the process.
We have a number of projects over the next couple years that plan to address that need:
- Re-launching and growing our online platform, the Active Project, with all the learning and community features that we’ve been working on for the last year
- Developing outreach programs for under-resourced hospitals & rehabs, who often struggle to provide the specialized guidance people need after an SCI
- Empowering a network of community ambassadors that reach and unite people with SCI in their community
- Doubling down on camps, clinics, and scholarships that allow people to take the first step towards independence through organized experiences, while also building a new support system of people who understand life with an SCI
We have accomplished so much in the last 17 years, but we have a massive amount of work ahead of us. That’s exactly how we want it. We are poised to not only provide people with financial support, but also the resources, knowledge, and experiences that will ease their journey into a life full of recreation, community, joy, and fulfillment post-injury. With your help, and the thousands of other people that have helped us grow, we know we can make such an enormous difference in the lives of people with SCI. Thank you again for joining us on this journey, and we hope to see you at the Kelly Brush Ride next year!