Cure Advocates Pay It Forward with SCI Peer Counseling Nationwide

A popular community program hosted by Cure Medical advocates aims to pay it forward by offering free spinal cord injury peer support events via local rehabilitation hospitals and nonprofit organizations nationwide.  The complimentary Pay It Forward peer counseling program also takes place in cities across the US and Canada in conjunction with the Abilities Expo roadshow.

Abilities Expo CEO David Korse says, “The Pay It Forward program supports our overall mission in a meaningful, tangible way. The Abilities Expo exists to introduce opportunities that can enrich your life, especially ones that you never knew were out there, and these in-person hospital programs do exactly that.”

“We also invite any medical professional who wants to learn more about Cure Nation resources or the Abilities Expo to join us free of charge at our upcoming events this year,” Korse continues.

A group of wheelchair users at Abilities Expo with AE CEO David Korse
Abilities Expo CEO David Korse stops to chat with Pay It Forward peer counselors Chris Collin, Andrea Dalzell, and Maria Rabaino of the Rollettes wheelchair dance team along with Expo attendee Michelle Leahy.

Pay It Forward:  In-Person, Practical Knowledge for Newly Injured

The Pay It Forward educational program began with a simple intention to give back to the community served by Cure Medical as most people who use Cure catheters have experienced the challenge of adjusting to a disability or life-changing medical condition.

One of the main goals of the Pay It Forward program is to encourage people who are newly injured while also helping attendees discover lifestyle activities and opportunities post-SCI.

Since it began last summer, the Pay It Forward peer counseling program has delivered several well-received, highly-attended events at:

  • Marianjoy Rehabilitation Hospital in Chicago
  • TIRR Memorial Hermann Rehabilitation Hospital in Houston
  • Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital in Boston
  • Northridge Hospital in Los Angeles
  • Spinal Cord USA Meetup in Atlanta

Cure Advocate Chris Collin, a T-5 paraplegic, teamed up with Catalyst Sports executive director Eric Gray to share adaptive sports advice and post-injury experiences at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital last fall.

Chris shared his passion for adaptive skiing and quad rugby from his volunteer role with Maine Adaptive Sports and Recreation as Eric highlighted “out-of-chair” experiences like adaptive rock climbing and other fun, inclusive activities.

Wheelchair user in front of gazebo and white flowers while other wheelchair users look on
Above, Chris Collin shares his journey as an adaptive ski instructor with Marianjoy Hospital peer group members.

Chris welcomes all to join the Cure Medical Pay It Forward peer programs too. “Peer programs helped me when I was in rehab too. It’s important to see and hear from people that have been through similar situations as it shines light on what you’re capable of doing as a person in the ‘new world’ you are in,” he says.

Participants Praise the Pay It Foward Peer Program

During a complimentary Pay It Forward peer counseling program, an expert team of wheelchair users and peer educators offers practical advice and personal examples of life after spinal cord injury in a structured peer counseling setting.

Able Outdoors magazine founder and C-7 quadriplegic Chad Waligura is one of the original TIRR peer counselors in Houston and has contributed to peer support programs and adaptive sports events across Texas for more than 20 years. He enjoyed the Cure Advocate Pay It Forward program so much that he’s now a featured speaker at their events too.

Two wheelchair users in front of Memorial Hermann sign
Pay It Forward and TIRR Peer Mentor Chad Waligura meets with a younger friend who is newer to the world of spinal cord injury.

“I helped organize one of the first Pay It Forward events at TIRR last year and I’m happy to be invited to do more of these speaking engagements as a member of Cure Nation.  It’s so important to go to the rehabs and talk to people because they want to see that there is life after SCI (or after injury),” Chad explains.

“We roll in and show people that you can still do the things you want to do. And you never know who you’re going to reach either. No matter how big or small the group is, there’s always someone there that needs your kind words of advice. If we can give hope to one person who is adjusting to a new life after spinal cord injury, it’s worth it,” he continues.

Fitness advocate and founding member of the Rollettes dance team Maria Rabaino also knows firsthand how valuable peer counseling is in terms of building people’s confidence.

The day before Valentine’s Day in 2012, Maria Rabaino experienced a life-changing event that set her rolling down a path that she could have never imagined. At 18 years old, she was riding as a passenger when she was involved in a traumatic car accident that was the result of drunk driving. The vehicle struck two trees and Maria endured multiple internal injuries, including an incomplete L-1 spinal cord injury.

Maria did her rehabilitation at Shriners Hospital of Northern California in Sacramento and can’t say enough good things about the experience. Supported by a family that kept her in good spirits, she committed herself to figuring out life after SCI. Maria was connected with a mentor in the hospital that answered a lot of questions and also told her about a young lady with a similar background who performed as a wheelchair dancer.

Maria Rabaino and another young female wheelchair user
Rollettes founding member Maria Rabaino (left) encourages you to get involved in peer groups online and in-person!

The dance team and their leader, Chelsie Hill, became a source of inspiration and motivation for Maria — and she felt a special connection with the team. Maria and Chelsie were close in age, were both pretty recent injuries, and both had been injured in a drunk driving accident.

Maria remembers how meaningful it was the day that Chelsie called, and they talked for the very first time. Little did they both know, it was the start of a beautiful friendship.

“That’s why I love giving back today, whether it is speaking at Pay It Forward programs with Cure Medical, or assisting people in achieving a healthier lifestyle through the online programs and content that the Rollettes offer via our social media channels,” Maria adds.

Note: If you’d like to participate in a virtual peer event, be sure to join the Rollettes Fitness Challenge hosted by Maria on social media! Currently running through June 2019, fitness tips and tricks for wheelchair users are served up daily thanks to the Rollettes’ workout examples.  Follow #RLAFit19 on Instagram.

“Peer counseling changes lives in a profound way! Triumph Foundation also believes strongly in the value of offering positive examples of recovery to people who are newly injured. That’s why we were thrilled to invite two Pay It Forward Advocates to join us recently at our ongoing peer support program at Northridge Hospital in Los Angeles,” Triumph founder Andrew Skinner explains.

“Their personal stories brought a new dynamic to our group as Chris shared his adaptive sports adventures in Maine and Kristina offered encouraging advice on family topics for parents who roll too.”

Connect with more than 20 local peer group programs hosted by Triumph Foundation across the Los Angeles area here.

If you’d like to meet more friends who roll in your hometown, browse this list of peer groups by state courtesy of the Cure Nation!

How You Can “Pay It Forward” in Your Community

The Pay It Forward peer program is free for any participating rehabilitation hospital or local nonprofit organization. Cure Medical covers all event costs including speaker travel and dinner for participants, and they help program partners create invitations and flyers for the speaker engagements.

Interested organizations are welcome to contact Cure Medical directly for program details.

“Cure Medical is a proud sponsor of these complimentary clinical events. The Pay It Forward program is a real-life example of the Cure Commitment to our customers and partners,” Cure Medical VP of Marketing Lisa Wells adds.

Image of three books available for download at
Download any of these free books for members of the Cure Nation — click here!

“Beyond these events, more free resources are available on our website to members of the Cure Nation. Cure Medical also remains distinguished as the only intermittent catheter manufacturer in the world that donates 10% of net income to medical research in pursuit of a cure for paralysis,” she shares.

To request a complimentary Pay It Forward peer event for your organization, please contact Cure Medical.

Meet the Pay It Forward Team at the Chicago Abilities Expo

Members of the Pay It Forward team are excited to welcome you to the upcoming Chicago Abilities Expo taking place June 21–23, 2019 at the Schaumberg Convention Center. Even better news, it’s free to attend the Expo! Snag your weekend pass here.

Stop by the Cure Medical booth (#307) while you are at the Chicago Expo to learn about the next Pay It Forward event plus more ways you can stay connected with friends who roll.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Post comment