In Kelly’s Words – Welcome Greg
Left: Greg and Kelly in 2009 at Greg’s first Kelly Brush Ride
Right: Greg and Kelly today at the office
As I hope you’ve seen by now, the KBF hired Greg Durso 6 months ago. You’ve probably seen him singing corny 80s songs while driving around the Rocky Mountains to go mountain biking, in our welcome to the team video, or giving a ridiculous review of our Kelly Brush Ride jerseys.
Having Greg, another wheelchair user, on the KBF team has given me the opportunity to reflect both on what we can do as an organization within the SCI community, but also on what it means personally to have a shared experience of a spinal cord injury.
I’ve known Greg for 10 years, since just after his accident. He came up to the Kelly Brush Ride in 2009 in a handcycle we helped him purchase shortly after his accident. Since then we’ve seen him a few times a year and his enthusiasm for the KBF is infectious. Early in 2019 we collectively realized that what he was looking for in the next stage of his life (he was a commercial banker…) and what the KBF needed on staff (a full-time advocate in the SCI community) were starting to align. So we hired him!
As we talked about his role, we talked about what we wanted for the KBF. What would it mean to have someone else share the role with me as the face of the KBF? I work full-time as a pediatric nurse practitioner, so I can’t always be “on”. He’s male, and people with SCI are 80% men. And we’re different kinds of lifelong athletes. He’s finished an Ironman triathlon, I ….. have not…..
The bigger the KBF gets, the more relevant we are in the adaptive sports community, a role we are embracing and nurturing. We interact more with people with SCI, their families, rehab centers, and adaptive sports programs. The more these opportunities come up, the clearer it became that we need someone who has that time, personality, and approachability to be another face for the KBF.
In just these 6 months, Greg has been able to travel to see our community of grant recipients, partners, and donors. With 2 kids under 4 and another job, I obviously can’t (however jealous I may be of him at times). Check out his wild west trip from August this year. He was able to see a bunch of our grant recipients, meet with supporters of the KBF, go to a few adaptive sports organizations, and just generally meet people in the adaptive sports world all to spread the word about the KBF and what we’re doing.
When I get the chance, I love connecting with and even becoming a mentor to people who are newly injured, especially women. With Greg in the office, he’s able to talk to people when they are in the most vulnerable and scary place. Sometimes these conversations are around sports, but often it’s just about life. Even a 10-minute conversation can make such a difference. Having him available at our end of the KBF phone line has already been meaningful to a lot of people.
But perhaps the coolest thing about hiring Greg, and not something that I was expecting, is having a deeper friendship and more routine opportunity to connect with someone else in a wheelchair. I’ve known Greg for 10 years and I know dozens of other people in chairs pretty well. But I don’t spend that routine time with them that I now spend with Greg in the one or two days a week I’m in the KBF office. In just the last 6 months I can’t count the number of times we’ve been troubleshooting things like wheelchair issues, doctor/health issues, or other random or passing observations that I can’t generally commiserate with other people about.
As I was kicking around the idea to write this blog, even another member of the KBF team said something to the effect of “it’s honestly awesome to just over hear you guys talking about this stuff.” She has connected with hundreds of people with SCI in the 2 years she’s worked for the KBF but just doesn’t see that side. And honestly I hadn’t realized how much I would appreciate having those conversations myself.
I hope you, our KBF supporters and my loyal blog readers, are going to enjoy having Greg on the KBF team as much as I am. Our already-great team has added a layer of experience, credibility, and some more perspective on what it means to thrive in the spinal cord injury community.
Dylan and Nell Update:
Nell is on the move! I can’t quite call it crawling, it’s more like inch worming, but she gets where she wants! She just turned 7 months so I can’t believe she’s already getting herself around. Dylan didn’t crawl until 10 months. One thing that has become really clear to me is how individual each child is. I know I’m not supposed to compare Dylan and Nell, but it’s so hard not to. Watching them each develop is so fun because each will excel at different things at different times. By 7 months Dylan was eating pureed foods really well and Nell is really not into that still – we are seeing lots of gagging! Regardless, they both are doing great and it is such a joy to watch them grow and change all the time.