In Kelly’s Words – Grant Surprise
This is really fun for me. Although we’ve made over 800 grants to people with spinal cord injuries, I had only presented 1 of those in person as a surprise. You may remember, we filmed it Publisher’s Clearinghouse-style.
This past month we surprised someone again!
For context, when we award Active Fund grants we send out emails and then letters with their award decision. The applicant will then place the order for the equipment with a vendor and then we pay the vendor directly.
But this past spring we were presented with a really awesome applicant and a really great opportunity to surprise him
Martrell grew up in Chicago and sustained a spinal cord injury when he was 4 from a stray bullet. He got into wheelchair basketball in Chicago and where he was also a very accomplished student (he was the valedictorian of his 8thgrade class). He was accepted into the Brooks School in Massachusetts where he just finished his sophomore year. He plays with a wheelchair basketball team in Connecticut but is also part of the team at Brooks. He is one of the best wheelchair basketball players of his age in the country so there is a lot of interest from college teams already. He is planning to go on a college tour this summer and do some college showcases to both improve his game and gain exposure. He has grown about 6 inches in the last year so has outgrown his current chair and needs a new one in order to be competitive. That is where the KBF came in!
We contacted his mom, his wheelchair basketball coach, and the basketball coach at Brooks to confirm that if we surprised him he would be OK with it. Together we planned the surprise around the Brooks Basketball Team’s end-of-year team dinner. With the help of his coaches and some administrators at Brooks we managed to pull it off! We waited out of view until his coach welcomed us in and we presented Martrell with his new basketball wheelchair. While we waited, I was so nervous what his reaction would be: I didn’t want him to be embarrassed in front of his teammates or feel put on the spot.
The best part of the surprise is seeing his reaction. This is not something I ever really get to see because we send emails and letters announcing the awards. But being there in person to see how excited he was, talking to him about basketball, what it means to him, and how this new chair will help him was so fun for me. And it really hits home with me that we are doing the right thing. When I started the foundation I saw a need from my experience. Seeing Martrell’s reaction to getting this grant, 13 years after I first saw that need for myself, keeps that emotion fresh in my mind and the importance poignant.
Surprising both Bridget and Martrell was so much fun. While it certainly doesn’t work every grant cycle, I know we’ll continue to look for opportunities to do this more because it’s so much fun for us and hopefully for them too!
Nell & Dylan Update:
My last update talked about Dylan being more challenging with sleep and therefore having more challenging behavior during the day. While her sleeping still isn’t perfect we are in a MUCH better place than we were a month ago! She still gets up once or twice overnight and we have to bring her back to her room, but we are able to have her stay in her room as she is falling asleep and we go “check on her” every 5-10 minutes until she is asleep. Thankfully we found that solution! Since she’s getting better sleep, her behavior and attitude during the day is back to what it always had been and she is happy and fun. She loves to play pretend (she’s always the mommy) and loves to talk to Nell when she is crying or fussing to try to make her feel better.
Nell has continued to be a great baby. She is eating and sleeping well and has been smiling and cooing a lot which is very cute and fun to see. Our biggest struggle with her right now is that she does not really take a bottle. So any time I leave her (which hasn’t been much) she is fussy because she’s hungry but won’t take a bottle. She’ll have to learn once she starts in daycare!