Inclusive parks becoming a reality, one Magical Bridge at a time

"No one knows how hard it is for me to go to a playground.  In a place where everyone should be included, I am not."
-- words of a child with a disability

   Chris and his son, Christopher

Chris and his son, Christopher

And so, that was the inspiration that helped launch the Magical Bridge Playground Project and its mission to help develop all-inclusive playgrounds in Bay Area communities and beyond.  It all began some seven years ago when the foundation was launched and a significant fundraising campaign helped develop the seed money to begin work on the first playground in Palo Alto.  That location opened to the public in April of 2015 and since then, a new location in Redwood City is being built with an estimated completion date of Dec. 2018.  Additional locations in Sunnyvale, Morgan Hill and Mountain View are planned and are in the midst of fundraising to support the construction costs.

The nice thing about these playgrounds, as costly as they are, is that a diverse group of individuals, organizations, companies, foundation and city governments have been coming together to do the bulk of the heavy lifting as it relates to the funding required.

But these playgrounds offer more than access for the children with disabilities.  They are also a great way for a disabled parent to play with their able-body child and not have to worry about not being able to safeguard their child from the usual troubles they can find themselves in.  That was the experience of Chris Bridgman, a paraplegic resident of Mountain View, who has three sons.  They discovered the Palo Alto location and not only do his kids have lots to play with but it also allows Chris to play along with them while being there for their safety as well.

If you are interested in bringing a Magical Bridge Playground to your community or elementary schools, contact the organization on their web site.

Limited accessible kayaking available for June 2 Day on the Lake in Los Gatos

The response to the Sat., June 2nd Day on the Lake event at the Vasona Lake & Park event in Los Gatos has been tremendous and as of today, there are only a few time slots available for the accessible kayaks which you can register for HERE.

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The free event is from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and marks the first time that an event of this kind has been held in Santa Clara County and the hope is that it will be an annual event allowing individuals with a spinal cord injury or traumatic brain injury to experience water-based recreational activities conducted in an accessible kayak or canoe.  The folks at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center and many partners, including NorCal SCI, have worked tirelessly over the past six months to make this day possible and a lot of activities are planned for the family, friends and disabled community members to make it a memorable day.

In addition to the accessible kayaks and canoes, able-bodied individuals can also access the regular inventory of kayaks, pedal boats and paddle boards.  Free hot dogs and refreshments will also be served along with DJ-hosted music and a lot of activities for kids as well as informational booths from community organizations supporting the disabled community.  Demonstration of accessible sail boats will also take place.  For additional information, call (408) 885-2397.

Stem Cell clinics: too good to be true?

It's a topic that can quickly turn a mild conversation into a heated argument and high hopes to heartbreaks.  Yet, people with disabilities travel overseas and within the U.S. in search of that rare opportunity to be cured of their ailment using stem cells and that's exactly where federal regulators are focusing on as they attempt to close down clinics making lofty and unproven claims.

This article by the Washington Post examines some of the experiences people have had in their pursuit of the cure.  But it doesn't guarantee that the conversation will come to an end.

AbleThrive to host June 4 screening of "Take a Look at This Heart" in SF

Ben Duffy's 4th feature length documentary "Take a look at this heart", a film about love, sexuality, and the human bond within the disabled community, will be shown on Mon., June 4th in San Francisco.

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Hosted by AbleThrive and Diversability, the film takes you on a journey into the lives of 17 very unique people; some with disabilities and the partners who love them, others struggling to get by in a world that seems to often overlook them. In exploring the confidence and unconditional love that these humans have for themselves and each other, you may begin to question your own notions on life, love, and what it means to really feel in every sense of the word.  Sexuality has traditionally been a taboo topic when it comes to disability, but this film brings people with disabilities to the forefront to share their stories.  You can view the trailer HERE.

The free screening is from 6-8 p.m. but you need to get a ticket by registering HERE.  It will be shown at the offices of ThoughtWorks, 814 Mission St., San Francisco.  Refreshments will also be provided as well as an opportunity to mix and mingle.

BORP to host June 13 Hall of Fame & Awards Celebration in Berkeley

Berkeley-based Bay Area Outreach & Recreation Program (BORP) will host its Hall of Fame & Awards Celebration on Wed., June 13th to honor the achievements and contributions of members of the BORP community. The event will recognize outstanding athletes, dedicated volunteers, and bold outdoor adventurers, as well as individuals whose lifetime of achievements and commitment have had a significant and lasting impact on BORP and the Bay Area’s adaptive sports community.

   Left to right: Jonathan Newman, Lamile Perry, Victor Hakopian, Joe Melancon and Delta Gamma, UC Berkeley Chapter

Left to right: Jonathan Newman, Lamile Perry, Victor Hakopian, Joe Melancon and Delta Gamma, UC Berkeley Chapter

Those to be recognized are:

2018 BORP Hall of Fame Inductees: Jonathan Newman and Lamile Perry
The BORP Hall of Fame recognizes the efforts of individuals, agencies, and organizations who had a significant and lasting impact on BORP and the adaptive sports community in the Bay Area through exceptional athletic achievements, leadership, advocacy, public service, volunteerism, philanthropy, and innovation.

Athlete of the Year: Victor Hakopian
BORP’s Athlete of the Year Award is presented to an individual who exhibits outstanding athletic ability, teamwork, a commitment to their sport(s) and a strong worth ethic.

Adventurer of the Year: Joe Melancon
BORP’s Adventurer of the Year Award recognizes individuals for outstanding performance in the outdoors and who embody the spirit of adventure, including boldness, courage, accountability for individual and group safety, and respect of nature and their peers.

BORP Volunteer of the Year: UC Berkeley Delta Gamma
BORP’s Volunteer of the Year award recognizes individuals and/or groups who have gone above and beyond by giving time and service to support BORP’s programs and activities.

The event will be held at the Ed Roberts Campus located at 3075 Adeline St. in Berkeley.  To purchase your ticket, CLICK HERE.

Quadriplegic and not sleeping well? Here's why

A new study in The Journal of Physiology tries to show why more than 70 percent of people with quadriplegia also have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a medical condition that causes the upper airway to narrow and close repeatedly while people are asleep.

Many quadriplegics complain of fatigue and not getting enough sleep.  The study, conducted in Australia, had the participants wear a breathing mask to simulate the narrowing of the airway that occurs with sleep apnea.  To learn more about this study and potential solutions, click HERE.

Peer Support Groups -- YES, they are quite beneficial

Between my volunteer duties and attending a lot of other meetings, I've sat in on over 600 Peer Support Group meetings and am always excited about the amount of information shared among the attendees but what gets me even more excited is when someone had given up on a problem they were dealing with, only to be amazed upon learning from someone else about a solution to that problem.  You can see the sense of relief in their eyes and facial expression and that is such a great feeling to experience and reinforces the main reason these meetings take place.

I was at such a meeting last week when a meeting attendee brought up the subject of going back to college and they were unaware of the many wonderful benefits the Department of Rehabilitation (DOR) offers to those individuals who want to go to college or get re-trained in a different profession.  Another participant at this meeting, who was intimately familiar with DOR's program, happily shared all the details with the group.  But she didn't stop there.  She also introduced the group to a foundation called Swim With Mike that provides financial resources for the advanced education of physically challenged athletes.  This is especially helpful if someone, for example, wishes to go to a private college which DOR does not provide financial assistance.

The look of excitement on this person with SCI and his mother was very visible as they learned that it's easy and doesn't have to cost them anything to go to college.  For me, I was just recently told about Swim With Mike by one of our newsletter readers and it was great to learn first-hand from this mom how her son was able to benefit from that program.  

At another event, I met the family of a recently-injured man who was languishing at a small hospital.  The facility had very little expertise in dealing with someone with a spinal cord injury and the family was over-whelmed with the many challenges any new case of SCI presents.  Once again, experience and resources that someone with a good amount of knowledge on these issues has was instrumental in opening their eyes to how they can potentially handle their situation and help their loved one get better care.

Why am I writing about this issue?  It is to encourage more of you to attend the Support Group meetings in your area.  Being in a gathering of others in a similar situation is an opportunity to not only learn of something new for yourself but may also be an opportunity to share your knowledge with others.  I've been to my share of Peer Support meetings that are sparsely attended and always wondered why.  There are about 13,000 persons with SCI in Northern California and dare I say that on a monthly basis, there are no more than 200 persons that attend the Support Group meetings that take place in Northern California.

So, yes, Peer Support Groups can be an important part of life with SCI.  If you want to learn of the meeting taking place closest to you, check out our SUPPORT GROUPS section.  If there is none close to where you live, hit us up at info@norcalsci.org and perhaps we can help launch one in your area.
--
Franklin Elieh, co-founder

Palo Alto VA seeking SCI volunteers for exercise and bone health study

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The Palo Alto VA Hospital and its Spinal Cord Injury research unit is seeking volunteers with a spinal cord injury to participate in a study measuring the effects of exercise on bone health.  

The VA-funded study focuses on adults with a traumatic SCI whose legs are paralyzed and seeks to explore the potential effect of exercise activities to impact bone health after SCI.  

Volunteers will receive a free bone density scan and will be trained to perform several exercise activities, some using functional electrical stimulation (FES).  For more information, contact Becky Lambach at (650) 493-5000, x69411 or Rebecca.lambach@va.gov

May 31 live webinar: Maximizing Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation

This month's United Spinal Association's webinar will be held on Thurs., May 31st at noon (CA time) and address "Maximizing Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation", focusing on comprehensive rehabilitation after spinal cord injury and highlight required care guidelines provided by a spinal cord injury medical center.

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It will also cover critical questions such as how long a person with a new spinal cord injury should be in inpatient rehabilitation and what minimum essential equipment should individuals have when transitioning back into communities.  There are continuous problems and confusion that the individual with SCI, their family members and caregivers experience in accessing customized rehabilitative therapies, timely admission to the most appropriate in-patient rehabilitation programs, and allowable outpatient therapy days intended to maximize function.

Join this webinar to be informed on the ins and outs of the spinal cord injury rehabilitation process and become empowered to share your experiences with legislators and enlist their support. Presenters are Jennifer Hastings, PT, PhD, Professor of Physical Therapy at the University of Puget Sound; Alexandra Bennewith, MPA, United Spinal’s VP of Government Relations.

To sign up for this free webinar, CLICK HERE.