Non-profit provides adaptive sports equipment for people with spinal cord injuries

BOSTON — A non-profit that helps people with spinal cord injuries buy adaptive sports equipment to lead active lives again held a fundraiser in Boston Thursday night, inspiring hope for people after paralysis.

The Kelly Brush Foundation held its 10th “A Night to Inspire,” raising money for adaptive equipment as well as camps and programs for people who have suffered spinal cord injuries.

The event showcased equipment including an adaptive mountain bike, alpine monoskis, rugby chairs and hockey sleds.

Kelly Brush, who launched the eponymous foundation just months after her own spinal cord injury, told Boston 25 News the non-profit started small 18 years ago, but this year is set to provide $1 million in adaptive sports equipment.

“It’s not just sports for the sake of sports,” Brush said. “It’s the ability to improve confidence and build community and give people a sense of being able to do whatever they want in their life, not just limit themselves because of an accident.”

In 2006, the 19-year-old Middlebury College student was ski racing when she fell, hit a lift tower and broke her back. Brush would later be told she would never walk again.

It wasn’t long before her Middlebury ski team put their money together and bought Brush her first monoski.

“After I got hurt, I knew I wanted to do something to make something good come out of my accident, and so we thought about the foundation and dreamed up this idea.

The Vermont-based foundation has helped more than 1,700 people with spinal cord injuries in every state in the country acquire adaptive sports equipment.

“This equipment we help people acquire is really expensive. It’s things like, $2,500 for an introductory handcycle… and up to $15,000 for a mountain bike, $8,000 for a monoski – just to be able to get out and ski,” Brush said. “The barrier to enter is so much greater for people with disabilities, and so we help to break down those barriers and get them into sports.”

In 2015, Meredith Koch became paralyzed from the waist down when an 850-pound piano she was helping move shattered her first lumbar vertebra.

Just weeks into her recovery at at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, Koch was trying out an adaptive bike, later getting back on skis, unbeknownst to her at the time, all thanks to Kelly Brush funding. Koch eventually applied for a foundation grant and got her own handcycle.

While she has regained some function, the handcycle has given her the ability to independently bike again and enjoy the sport with her husband. She also enjoys rock climbing and skiing and is beginning to introduce her 15-month-old son to her active lifestyle.

“The adaptive sports equipment is so expensive that we can’t really afford it on our own. So, we need organizations to help fund it,” Koch said. “Adaptive sports have totally changed my life. It’s given me confidence to be able to thrive with a spinal cord injury… It’s true, through every single setback I’ve had, every challenge, adaptive sports have been there, and it’s the community that comes with it, too.”

To donate to the Kelly Brush Foundation, click here: DonorPerfect Forms.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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