In Kelly’s Words – Fall grant season has arrived!
Autumn means Active Fund grant review time! This has been true since the very start of the Kelly Brush Foundation. Even though we added a spring cycle in 2016, fall is still our largest cycle.
Grant review is the most fun and rewarding aspect of running the KBF, but it also the hardest. Hardest because we have to spread our budget (which grows every year!) to the most deserving applications, which sometimes means saying “no” to people! I love reading these applications because you hear incredible stories about injury and recovery, but also because there are so many people out there who are using sports as a means to recovery and finding themselves again after an injury. Just like I did and am doing!
Because I get the question a lot, I thought I’d take this time to shed some light on our process.
Everyone who applies for a piece of adaptive sports equipment is required to fill out an application online, which includes questions about their injury and injury level (what kind of impairment they may have in their arms, hands, etc.), their income (all of our grants are need-based), the equipment they are applying for and what other equipment they have and what activities they currently do.
The heart of the application is really about why this sport is important to them and what it will do to improve their life. We also ask them to provide (i) a recommendation from someone who can speak to why they are a good candidate for this grant, (ii) a letter of medical documentation to prove they have a spinal cord injury, (iii) quotes for the equipment they are requesting, and (iv) latest tax returns to prove their income. We ask for a lot!
The Grant Committee
We assemble a Grant Committee that includes directors of rec. therapy or adaptive sports divisions of major rehab facilities, founders of adaptive sports programs, former grant recipients, a Paralympic champion, and sitting Board members. We are really confident in the group we’ve assembled to distribute the funding we work so hard to raise!
Each committee member is asked to review and rate a certain number of candidates. We then connect for a 3-hour marathon call to individually discuss all the applicants that fall somewhere in the middle of our rating system.
Over the years the requirements for our grants have largely stayed the same (which is pretty remarkable I think) but the process has become much better at vetting grant applicants. When we first started our Board reviewed grants every fall after we held the Kelly Brush Ride. We would basically raise the money, decide how much we had to give out, and make awards.
Now we have a budget set at the start of the based on what we hope to raise throughout the year and how much we can give out at our two (spring and fall) grant cycles. Having this expertise has been an incredible benefit for us because they can assess if a person with a given injury is applying for a piece of equipment that is appropriate for them.
For me, grant review is a time for us to really remember why we are doing what we do. Why we put on our events and raise money. Reading the stories of our applicants brings me back to the time after my injury when I was finding sports and wanted to get involved in whatever I could. I understand that need to be outside and active and can put myself in their shoes. Here is what a few of our applicants this fall said.
“It would change my life in that I can participate not only with other adaptive bikers but with my girlfriend, family and friends whom also have regular bikes. Raising my morale being with them all. Wow! I’m all emotional right now. I may have lost the use of my legs but I haven’t lost my spirit & determination to live my life to the best of my potential.” – Gilbert, CA
“This equipment will be a life changer for me because I will use it regularly to improve my health in return allowing me to live a much healthier and happier life. Being able to ride a hand cycle gives me the freedom I desperately seek.” -Paul, NV
“This equipment would change Adrian’s life in a huge way. Where he is the only disabled child at his school, this would help him to be independent of his peers and to access the school yard, nature walks, field trips.” -Adrian’s mom, KY
How do you say “no” to anyone? What motivates me to raise more money every year is to be able to say “yes” to even more of our grant applicants.