Kids & Family

silhouette of woman in a wheelchair looking at a sunset

September is Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month

September is National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month and to help raise awareness, we put together a list of helpful resources and support groups for our friends and customers with spinal cord injuries (SCI). These resources are also helpful for families, loved ones, therapists, caretakers – and for anyone looking to contribute to a worthy cause.

National Resources for People with Spinal Cord Injury

Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation

One of the most well-known organizations for SCI, the Reeve Foundation was founded in 1999 and is dedicated to finding a cure for spinal cord injury by funding innovative research and offering services that improve the quality of life for those living with paralysis. Further, they provide resources on health, rehabilitation, costs, and insurance, and funding to nonprofits that serve the disability community.

Website: https://www.christopherreeve.org
Contact: 800-539-7309

United Spinal Association

A national 501(c) (3) nonprofit membership organization, United Spinal is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life of those living with spinal cord injuries and disorders. United Spinal transforms the lives of people with SCI/D by:

  • Advocating for greater access to healthcare, mobility equipment, public transportation, rehabilitation, community services and supports, and the built environment
  • Empowering our members with resources, one-on-one assistance, and peer support
  • Promoting independence through employment opportunities and community integration of wheelchair users into mainstream society

Website: https://unitedspinal.org
Contact: 718-803-3782

Miami Project to Cure Paralysis

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis was founded in 1985 with the help of Barth A. Green, M.D. and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti after Nick’s son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game.  The Miami Project is a Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.  It is considered the premier investigative research program conducting cutting edge discovery, translational, and clinical investigations targeting spinal cord and brain injuries.

Website: https://www.themiamiproject.org
Contact: 305-243-6001

Travis Roy Foundation women smiling playing wheelchair basketball

The Travis Roy Foundation is dedicated to enhancing the life of individuals with spinal cord injuries and their families by providing adaptive equipment and to finding a cure through increased funding of research, resulting in self-reliance and the ability to be as independent as possible. Half of the money raised by the Travis Roy Foundation goes toward Quality of Life grants to purchase adaptive equipment to help paraplegics and quadriplegics live their lives.

Website: https://www.travisroyfoundation.org
Contact: info@travisroyfoundation.org

Triumph Foundation

Triumph Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to help children, adults, and Veterans with Spinal Cord Injury/Disorder (SCI) to triumph over their disability and to inspire them to keep moving forward with their lives by pushing themselves to get better every day. Triumph Foundation works to minimize the obstacles that one faces after suffering traumatic injury.

Website: https://triumph-foundation.org
Contact: 661-803-3700

Shepherd Center’s Spinal Cord Injury 101

Videos developed by Shepherd Center, that use simple language and images of real people who have sustained a spinal cord injury, as well as medical experts and advocates. They also offer general information about SCI and TBI.

Website: www.spinalinjury101.org
Contact: 404-352-2020

SpinalCord.com

SpinalCord.com was started by Swope, Rodante P.A. to be a resource for SCI survivors and their families. Get access to more resources, such as information about new injuries, doctor/treatment centers, and legal or financial aid.

Website: https://www.spinalcord.com
Contact: 877-336-7192

Paralyzed Veterans of America

Founded in 1946, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) is involved in research, resources, and legislation concerning spinal cord injuries. PVA also sponsors sporting events and programs such as the National Veterans Wheelchair Games. PVA will use their expertise to be the leading advocate for:

Website: https://www.pva.org
Contact: 800-424-8200

Spinal Cord Injury

Facebook Peer Support Groups for SCI

Often, the best way to find resources and support for SCI is to connect with others who are sharing a same or similar experience. Many communities have in-person groups where people can meet one another, but there are also opportunities to get lots of great information and some camaraderie, too, virtually with Facebook Groups. See some popular options below (click to visit).

Fundraising with Help Hope Live

We understand that sometimes, with spinal cord injury, the biggest obstacle to mobility freedom is the cost of products, technology and medical services. That’s why we partnered with Help Hope Live; to connect our community with a fundraising option to purchase the wheelchair accessible vehicle that they need.

Help Hope Live is the leading community-based fundraising platform for people with unmet medical expenses due to catastrophic injuries or illnesses. They provide the following support and advantages throughout the fundraising campaign:

  • One-on-one fundraising help
  • Customizable Campaign Page
  • Bill pay support
  • Additional benefits based on their nonprofit status, including tax deductible donations

Learn more about Help Hope Live and get started here.

AMS Vans is a leading advocate of mobility freedom for persons living with spinal cord injury, and one of the largest providers of wheelchair-accessible vehicles in the country. We offer low prices on quality mobility vehicles, affordable short- or long-term handicap van rentals, mobility equipment sales with installation, and trade-in opportunities for your current adaptive or unmodified vehicle. Explore our inventory or call us at 1-800-775-8267.

group shot including a boy on a therapy bike

Bubba’s Story Inspires a Community

Upon having his adaptive bike stolen from his backyard, Beorn (fondly known as Bubba) and his family were devastated. The ability to go for a bike ride is something many of us take for granted. Not only was his bike crucial in his ongoing therapy, but it connected him to his family and all the other kids out there. With a several thousand-dollar price tag and four other kids to look after, Bubba’s mother, Stephanie, was at a loss on what to do next. So, she created a Facebook post, and it all started from there.

social media screenshot of boy in a therapy bike that got stolen

“When all this started, I was upset someone had taken my boy’s bike and knew it would be years before I could replace it. I was disheartened, to say the least. I felt like there was no point in reporting the loss, but I’m so glad I was persuaded to do it. Instead of being a bitter experience it has turned into this amazing thing I could have never of imagined. I was excited when we had over 100,000 shares – my mind is still blown!

My phone has literally been blowing up. I’ve tried to respond to messages but just can’t even keep up. The overwhelming response of support and love for my boy brings me to tears. I am beyond words to ever express how grateful and appreciative we are to everyone who has shared my posts, commented with support or advice, offered to set up a Go Fund Me, or to buy a new bike out right. I’m still in awe over all this.

I’ve heard many times “people suck,” but I believe all this has proven just the opposite. Big hearts are what I’ve seen from all of this, and that’s my takeaway: most people are good and caring,” shared Stephanie.

screenshot of news story, headline reading "community steps up to help valley teen"

An AMS Vans employee saw Bubba’s story on the local news and noticed the family was driving one of their vans.  He asked his senior managers how they could help, and the business immediately reached out to the family to offer a new bike custom-built to Bubba’s needs.

“Our mission is to really provide independence through mobility solutions, and while yes we do sell vans, Bubba’s independence was getting on the bike and riding with his brothers and sisters,” said general manager Randy Shiller. 

screenshot of news story, headline reading "boy gets new special needs bike"

One month later, the big “bike reveal” happened on a beautiful day at a local park with the family, community and media in attendance – everyone sharing in the special moment. After a quick fitting fromNumotion, Bubba was off again with a happy smile back on his face.

back of a therapy bike for kids with a custom license plate that reads "bubba" 

While AMS Vans provided Bubba with a new Rifton Adaptive Tricycle, there are still many families and children like him in need. And, you can help.

The Suzy Foundationis a charity especially close to Beorn’s family’s heart. The foundation specializes in helping to obtain assistive equipment for individuals with special needs – like this amazing bike.

To get involved, go to suzyfoundation.org

A special thanks to the local media for helping share Bubba’s story. You can watch their coverage below.

Bubba Needs Help:

NBC 12 News
ABC 15 Arizona
AZ Family 3TV & CBS 5

The Community Steps Up:

NBC 12 News
ABC 15 Arizona
AZ Family 3TV & CBS 5

Bubba Gets a New Bike:

NBC 12 News
ABC 15 Arizona

atlanta skyline

Go Out and Enjoy Summer: Eight Family-Friendly and Accessible Destinations in Atlanta

Did you know that the city of Atlanta was previously named Terminus because it was at the end of a railroad? No longer known as the last stop for trains, today’s Atlanta has lots of family-friendly venues, where your family can create fun memories this summer. All of these destinations are wheelchair accessible so that everyone can get out and enjoy what Atlanta has to offer!

1. Georgia Aquarium

The nation’s largest aquarium is home to four whale sharks, the sea’s largest fish. See them along with four manta rays and thousands of other sea creatures from an underwater perspective as you travel through a 100-foot tunnel. It’s all part of Ocean Voyager, one of the world’s largest aquatic exhibits. Aquanaut Adventures are another exciting reason to visit the aquarium. Each of the seven routes has seven adventures to take part in to learn more about aquatic life, marine science careers, and marine habitats. Staff members are trained to assist guests with mobility challenges who would like to have an experience with one of the aquarium’s touch pools.

a group of people looks at a giant fish tank at the Georgia aquarium

2. The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

Learning through play is the focus of The Children’s Museum of Atlanta. This summer the museum is hosting Doc McStuffins: The Exhibit. Visitors can explore the McStuffins Toy Hospital and enjoy taking care of the hospital’s toy patients. Also, permanent exhibits provide fun ways to learn about science, tools, food and much more. It is sure to be a good time and totally wheelchair accessible for kids and parents who roll.

3. Legoland Discovery Center

Meet your favorite Lego characters, take a Lego factory tour, and build as much as you like at Legoland Discovery Center. It’s a great place for an all-day outing. In fact, you can enjoy lunch in the on-site cafe, catch a movie in the 4D cinema, and see local buildings recreated in miniature.

4. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Park

Explore important places in the life of the civil right leader and learn more about this important chapter in American history. The park’s visitor center has an exhibit called Children of Courage, which teaches little ones about the civil rights movement. The International World Peace Rose Garden, King’s birth home (second floor accessible by elevator chair lift), and the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church that King co-pastored are some of the attractions at the site. Admission to the park is free.

5. Zoo Atlantazoo atlanta sign

While the pandas may be the zoo’s most famous residents, there’s a lot more to see and do at Zoo Atlanta. Observe a feeding, listen and ask questions at a keeper’s talk, or meet an ambassador animal. The zoo’s pathways are easy to roll on and keep an eye out for signs to designate special special wheelchair access.

6. Fernbank Science Center

See the actual Apollo 6 Command Module. Check out live poison dart frogs, turtles, snakes, spiders, and other animals. Catch a show in the Jim Cherry Memorial Planetarium at Fernbank Science Center and come at night to take a look through the observatory’s telescope. Admission and parking are free at Fernbank Science Center. Planetarium shows have a nominal fee.

7. Atlanta Botanical Garden

The Piedmont Avenue location has 30 acres of beautiful outdoor gardensto explore. During summer, a nature-inspired story time takes place on Wednesday mornings in the children’s garden. Complimentary wheelchairs are available for rent on a first-come, first-serve basis.

8. SunTrust Park

Go, Braves! For baseball fans, enjoying a game at the ballpark is one of the great joys of summer. To ensure all guests have a great game day experience, there’s an Accessible Seating Department to help you find parking and seating. Call them at (404) 577-9100 (Option 5). Further, tickets purchased through that department come with a Welcome Kit and a Braves Exceptional Fan Credential.

sky view Atlanta Ferris wheel

With a variety of fun, wheelchair accessible things to do in Atlanta, it’s a great city to experience, whether you’re a local or a visitor! Top any night off with Skyview Atlanta – a 200-ft Ferris wheel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park – it’s wheelchair accessible!

Need to rent a wheelchair accessible vehicle for your Atlanta adventures? AMS Vans has got you covered! Give us a call at 800-775-8267!

5 Actors on Wheels Making Moves in Hollywood

The characters we see on film and TV are becoming more and more diverse. It’s not uncommon these days to see a character with a disability in a show or movie. In the past, though, most actors portraying those characters were played by actors without disabilities. But, thanks to the hard work and perseverance of many dedicated individuals, people with disabilities are taking their rightful place in Hollywood among the stars.

Here are some actors on wheels that have made a name for themselves in the entertainment biz.

1. Micah Fowler

actor micah fowler

Micah Fowler, Image: IMDB

What did you get for your eighteenth birthday? For Micah, he got a lead role in a TV series. The show Speechless is about JJ, a young adult living with cerebral palsy. It aims at giving viewers insights on the challenges faced by people, and specifically teens, with special needs. They tackle issues like dating, parenting, disability awareness, healthcare and more.

Born in 1998 in New Jersey, he started acting when he was five because of his older sister and best friend, Kelsey. He took the next step in his career after his sister booked a role on Broadway. This led him to roles in Blue’s CluesSesame Street, and the film Labor DayMicah is also an ambassador to the Cerebral Palsy Foundation and devotes his time to the foundation’s efforts when not performing.

2. Teal Sherer

actress teal sherer

Teal Sherer, Image: IMDB

Teal went from taking theatre classes in college and working on school productions, to starring in the Emmy nominated film Warm Springs alongside Kathy Bates, and working closely with Kenneth Branagh as he prepared for his role of Franklin D. Roosevelt. She has appeared on TV on Survivor’s Remorse, The Guild, and more recently on NCIS: New Orleans. Also a dancer, Teal has performed with the Full Radius Dance Company and appeared on the NBC pilot of I’m with Stupid.

Teal is well-known in the disability community for her web series My Gimpy Life, which won the 2013 Best Female Comedy Performance at the Web Television Awards. She has also been featured in national commercials for clients including Liberty Mutual insurance, Disneyland (Cars Land) and Chrysler.

Next up for Teal, she’ll be starring in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Cost of Living in Vancouver, Canada! And, we’re sure much more!

3. Daryl ‘Chill’ Mitchell

actor daryl Chill Mitchell holding an award

Daryl “Chill” Mitchell, Image: NewMobility.com

Daryl ‘Chill’ Mitchell is without a doubt one of the most recognizable faces when it comes to actors who roll, with film and TV credits dating back to the 80’s. His staying power is a testament to his work ethic and likable personality – and we can expect to see Chill on the big screen for years to come.

Starting as a member of a hip hop group in the 1980’s, he saw further success in acting with roles in films like House Party, The Inside Man, Galaxy Quest and 10 Things I Hate About You, to name a few. He also made appearances in TV shows like The Cosby Show, Becker, Brothers and Desperate Housewives. Since 2014 he has had a role on NCIS: New Orleans and joined the cast of Fear The Walking Dead in 2018.

Chill has paved the way for so many other actors on wheels -and we’re really proud to have as a customer here at AMS Vans in Atlanta!

4. Ali Stroker

actress and Tony award winner Ali Stroker

Ali Stroker, Image: AliStroker.com

You may have heard Ali Stroker‘s name recently, as she just became the first performer in a wheelchair to win a Tony Award for her role of Ado Annie in the revival of the classic Broadway show Oklahoma!!

She has performed at the Kennedy and Lincoln Centers, earned a Barrymore Award nomination for her role in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee and was cast as Tamara in ABC’s show Ten Days in the Valley. A talented singer as well, Ali was a finalist on the second season of The Glee Project, and later appeared as a guest star on Glee in 2013. She played the role of Anna in Deaf West’s 2015 revival of Spring Awakening and appeared on the new Lethal Weapon TV series.

Being the first isn’t new to Ali Stroker. In fact, she became the first actress in a wheelchair to earn a degree in Fine Arts from New York University in 2009. Further, in 2015, she became the first performer in a wheelchair to appear on Broadway. If you have kids, you may have also seen her cameos on Sesame Street!

5. Santina Muha

actor and comedian Santina Muha

Santina Muha, Image: IMDB

Growing up in New Jersey as a member of an extended Italian family, humor has been a big part of Muha’s life. Paralyzed at the age of 6 after being involved in a car accident, she found that comedy would often ease the tension in a room. Santina grew up studying pop culture and learning from her favorite actors on TV – and from a young age, it was clear she was destined for stardom. Today she is a comic, actress, writer, storyteller and improviser currently plying her trade in Los Angeles.

Since joining UCB in 2013, Santina has contributed to their shows; hosting Rollin’ with my Homies, and writing and performing her one-woman show, That Girl in the Wheelchair. Not only is Santina raising awareness and dismantling stereotypes for people in wheelchairs through her comedy and writing, but she is also improving physical access to stages around UCB that have never been accessible before.

Santina is best known for her roles on Comedy Bang! Bang!One Day at a Time and starring opposite Joaquin Phoenix in Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot. Keep an eye out for this Jersey girl, because you’ll be seeing much more of her!

If you're an actor in a wheelchair, Hollywood is ready for you! With dedication and hard work, your dream can come to life! #actorswithdisabilities Click To Tweet