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Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation gives $10,000 to Mary Free Bed

Grant adds bike to fleet, creates state’s only off-road adaptive handcycle program

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital has received a $10,000 Quality of Life grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to help people with disabilities go places that, until now, have been inaccessible.

The grant was used to purchase an Explorer III Off-Road Handcycle to add an off-road handcycling component to Mary Free Bed’s Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports offerings. It also will be used by patients in the hospital’s inpatient and outpatient programs for recreational therapy.

“This specialized equipment provides yet another way to help people living with paralysis to overcome obstacles,” said Maria Besta, manager of Recreational Therapy and Wheelchair & Adaptive Sports. “We’re honored to receive this award and so thankful to The Reeve Foundation for its generous gift.”

No other hospital or organization in Michigan offers an adaptive program that enables people with disabilities to ride bikes on non-paved roads and trails, Besta said. Mary Free Bed is kicking the program off with a series of clinics on Mondays and Tuesdays through August at Luton Park in Rockford.

Hundreds of people of all ages are expected to utilize the bike, either as a therapy tool in the hospital or as part of the off-road handcycle program, said recreational therapist and coordinator Mike Burkhart.

“This bike enables people with limited or no lower-body mobility to tackle single-track terrain, something that would otherwise be impossible,” Burkhart said. “It can engage, challenge and empower people.”

The award is one of 102 grants totaling $721,425 presented this year by the Reeve Foundation to nonprofit organizations nationwide that provide more opportunities, access and daily quality of life for people living with paralysis, their families and caregivers. Conceived by the late Dana Reeve, the program has awarded more than 2,900 grants totaling over $20 million since 1999.

The grants awarded in the second cycle of 2016 were distributed among a wide variety of categories, including recreation, sports and leisure, advocacy, equipment and other independent living-related services. A significant number of projects focus on community re-integration initiatives such as assistive technology programs, home accessibility modifications, accessible transportation and accessible playgrounds that create more community opportunities for those living with paralysis and their families.

“It’s important to find balance while filling the needs of the community, especially those living in underserved areas,” said Donna Valente, director of Quality of Life Grants. “People may live only a few blocks from an outstanding adaptive recreation program, but if they don’t have a ramp to get out of their homes or accessible transportation to get to that location, they can’t participate in the activity, and we really aren’t meeting the overall goal of this program. That’s why we examine every proposed project to see the impact it will have in the community, and try to determine how we can best help them reach their full potential.”

Mary Free Bed is a not-for-profit, nationally accredited, rehabilitation hospital. For more than 125 years, Mary Free Bed has restored hope and freedom through rehabilitation for children and adults who have experienced brain injuries, strokes, spinal cord injuries, multiple traumas, amputations, cancer and other diagnoses. The combination of comprehensive services and an exclusive focus on rehabilitation enables specialty physicians and staff to help patients achieve outstanding clinical results. For additional information, visit maryfreebed.com.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy. The Paralysis Resource Center is the support side of the Reeve Foundation’s twin missions to provide “Today’s Care” and to strive for “Tomorrow’s Cure” and offers a free, comprehensive, national source of informational support for individuals living with paralysis and their caregivers. We meet all 20 of the Better Business Bureau’s standards for charity accountability and hold the BBB’s Charity Seal. For more information, visit ChristopherReeve.org.

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