In Kelly’s Words – Welcoming the Changes at KBF
This is an exciting time at the KBF, something I’ve been writing about frequently for the last 12 months or so. We’re thinking about new ideas and dreaming about possibilities. We are trying to answer some really important questions. What would make the lives of those with spinal cord injuries (SCI) better? How can we use sports and recreation in different ways to reach other people who don’t know about us yet? The last 6 months has been all about thinking through and getting those ideas into motion.
When my family and I started the KBF in 2006 our goal was simple: allow more access to adaptive sports for people with SCI. This was born out of my experience, and how powerful a role sports played in allowing me to feel like myself again after my injury.
The Active Fund (our grant program that purchases adaptive sports equipment for people with SCI) is our bread and butter and what we are most known for. We hold two Active Fund cycles annually—in April and October—and it is one of my busiest times. Greg and I, and now Edie, each review every application. We also have a committee of more than 20 people who each review 25 applications.
Over our history we have held 19 grant cycles (once each year for the first 9 years, and twice yearly for the last 5 years). This spring marks our 20th Active Fund cycle, and it’s a record-breaking one. It will be our largest in our history both in number of applicants (152) and total money requested ($744,000).
The demand for the Active Fund continues to grow and has become even more important since COVID hit, (I wrote a blog about it last fall). It is both exciting and encouraging that so many people are applying, but also somewhat heartbreaking knowing that we won’t be able to help everyone. Seeing the demand for this program only further confirms what I’ve known all along: having an SCI does not limit your desire to be active, if anything it increases it!
But even as we dig in here for the next 2 weeks to make Active Fund decisions, we can’t help but be excited about what is coming next for the KBF. Our most exciting new program is the Active Project which we launched in February this year. It is an interactive online platform for people with SCI to share knowledge, build community, and create opportunities around a shared passion for being active. The Active Project is the first attempt to bring all the available information about being active with a SCI together into one website and enable real-life connections.
We launched the Active Project as a beta version and have so many more ideas about how to make it great. Our hope is to involve the SCI community as much as possible to make a product that is really useful.
We have other changes at the KBF as well. One of the biggest is having a new Executive Director for the first time since 2014. This has been a huge change but in the best ways and I couldn’t be more excited about the direction and leadership that Edie has brought in her first few months.
We also haven’t been able to hold our events in person for the last year. This is one of the main ways that we interact with some much of our community and it has been so sad to not see everyone. Because we couldn’t hold Inspire!Boston, Inspire!Vermont or Inspire!NewYork (which had been our plan!) we held KBF Live Northeast which was an hour long virtual event (thank you to everyone that made it such a success!!). While I’m sad we didn’t have any of our in-person events, the energy and enthusiasm that came from KBF Live was incredible. I can’t wait to get back to in-person events, but I think some version of a virtual event is here to stay!
What hasn’t changed: our commitment to the people, whoever they are, with injuries like mine. Sports and community have so much potential to free people from this injury, both physically and emotionally, and our programs, whether new or old, are designed to make the greatest impact we can.