There is hope. You can thrive with paralysis. You still have a purpose.
Read the stories below and watch the videos to be inspired and encouraged.
Joni Eareckson Tada
Author, Radio Host, Founder of Joni and Friends
On July 30, 1967, Joni dove into the Chesapeake Bay after misjudging the shallowness of the water. She suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and became a quadriplegic (or tetraplegic), paralyzed from the shoulders down.
During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography Joni, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and religious doubts. However, during occupational therapy, Tada learned to paint with a brush between her teeth, and began selling her artwork. She also writes this way, although for most writing tasks she relies on voice recognition software. To date, she has written over forty books, recorded several musical albums, starred in an autobiographical movie of her life, and is an advocate for people with disabilities. She married Ken Tada in 1982. Ken and Joni live in Calabasas, California.
Tada founded Joni and Friends in 1979, an organization to “accelerate Christian ministry in the disability community” throughout the world. In 2007 the Joni and Friends International Disability Center in Agoura Hills, California, was established.
The Joni and Friends International Disability Center runs a multi-faceted non-profit covering a number of program outlets. The longest running program is “Joni and Friends Radio”, a five-minute radio program begun in 1982. It now runs four minutes in length and can be heard each weekday on over 1,000 broadcast outlets. Tada also records a one-minute radio broadcast “Diamonds in the Dust” that airs daily. Both programs have received awards: “Joni and Friends Radio” received the “Radio Program of the Year” award from National Religious Broadcasters in 2002 and “Diamonds in the Dust” won the same award in 2010 in the short program category.
Other Joni and Friends programs include Family Retreats (a camp/retreat experience for families affected by disability), Wounded Warrior Getaways (which offer a similar experience for families of Wounded Warriors), and Wheels for the World (collects manual wheelchairs and other mobility devices which are refurbished by volunteers in prison restoration shops then shipped overseas where the wheelchairs are fitted by physical therapists to people in developing nations).
Joni and Friends also has produced 51 episodes of Joni and Friends TV, overseen the formation of the Christian Institute on Disability (a training and advocacy arm of Joni and Friends), among other ventures.
In 2005, Tada was appointed to the Disability Advisory Committee of the U.S. State Department.
Tada is a conference speaker. Her articles have been published in Christianity Today, Today’s Christian Woman, The War Cry (Salvation Army), and newspapers around the world. Tada has appeared four times on Larry King Live. Find more information at https://www.joniandfriends.org/.
Motivational Speaker, Explorer, Innovator & Collaboration Catalyst
Mark helps people to build resilience and collaborate with others so that they achieve more than they thought possible.
Unbroken by blindness in 1998, Mark became an adventure athlete competing in ultra-endurance races across deserts, mountains, and the polar ice caps including being the first blind person to race to the South Pole.
In 2010 a fall from a second story window nearly killed him. Mark broke his back and the damage to his spinal cord left him paralyzed. Now he is on a new expedition, this time exploring the intersection where humans and technology collide to cure paralysis in our lifetime.
Eric J. LeGrand
Speaker, Author, Sports Analyst, Former College Football Player
In October 2010, Rutgers University football star, Eric LeGrand, sustained a spinal cord injury at his C3 and C4 vertebrae during a fourth-quarter play at MetLife Stadium. While the initial prognosis was grim, Eric demonstrated his titan strength by shattering all expectations for his recovery and rehabilitation. However, recovery was not enough.
With close to six million Americans living with some form of paralysis, including 1.3 million spinal cord injuries, Eric harnessed the national spotlight he attracted from his injury to give back to the community and inspire those living with and impacted by paralysis to bELieve.
Team LeGrand was launched in September 2013 as a fundraising arm for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation to carry forward the legacy of the late Christopher Reeve. Since its inception in 2013, Team LeGrand has raised over 1 million dollars for the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
In a matter of months, Team LeGrand rallied hundreds of members with its mission: To help individuals living with spinal cord injury and their families by supporting quality of life initiatives and emerging therapies that will get us to the end zone — cures for SCI.
Eric not only carries the torch of Team LeGrand’s mission, he continuously leads by example. During his time as a participant of the Reeve Foundation’s NeuroRecovery Network (NRN), Eric took part in a rigorous rehabilitation regime, including locomotor training, to re-teach his body how to walk and improve his quality of life. Since beginning therapy, he has reported movement in his shoulders and improvements to his overall health.
From becoming an author, sports analyst for ESPN, Sirius, the Big Ten Network and Rutgers radio, to a much sought after motivational speaker, Eric has given a voice to the paralysis community to mobilize support for critical initiatives, policies and cutting-edge research over the past five years.
He has been recognized by Sports Illustrated with “The Best Moment of 2011” and the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance at the ESPY Awards in 2012, he was inducted into the WWE Hall Of Fame in 2017 receiving the Warrior Award. In May 2014, Eric graduated from Rutgers University where he was an honored speaker at the commencement ceremony. When addressing his fellow graduates, he reminded them that “anything is possible,” and the importance of establishing a legacy of giving.
Since his injury, Eric LeGrand has shown the world that obstacles can be transformed into opportunities, and he will continue to drive the Team LeGrand mission forward until he delivers on Christopher Reeve’s dream of a world with empty wheelchairs. To Eric, it is not matter of if he walks again but rather when.
Learn more at https://ericlegrand52.com
Author, Speaker, Former Professional Rugby Player
Since his accident in 2005 during an England Under 21 rugby training session, Matt has battled hard to live as normal a life as possible. Paralyzed from the neck down and breathing via the aid of a ventilator, it is a testament to him that he decided to set up the Foundation so that others who have suffered similar catastrophic injuries through sport can receive support and assistance.
As well as his Foundation duties which include, visiting, mentoring, providing advice and fundraising, Matt delivers inspirational talks to young people and businesses around the country. He is also a forwards coach at Oakham School and Oakham Rugby Club, an ambassador for both the RFU’s Injured Players Fund and Restart (The Professional Rugby Association’s charity). Patron of Special Effect a charity set up to help disabled children communicate through technology.
Matt’s book ‘Engage’ describes the circumstances surrounding his accident and subsequent rehabilitation. It received critical acclaim and won a Sports book of the year award. He also writes columns for the Leicester Mercury, Rugby World Magazine and Sky News as well as featuring regularly on TV and in the written press.
Writer, Founder of Smart Blogger
Jon’s viral posts have been read and shared by millions, but it took three failed blogs before he found the keys to blogging success and created a multi-million dollar company.
These days Jon is focusing his amazing ability to overcome adversity into his new blog, Unstoppable.me, with the goal of reaching the millions of people who need to hear his message of hope and inspiration.
Chelsie left a party in an SUV with a friend who had been drinking while in high school in 2010. The SUV veered off the road and crashed into a tree, leaving her a T-10 Paraplegic. She was airlifted to a trauma center, where she underwent seven hours of surgery to fuse my broken back. Less than a year later Chelsie and her father founded The Walk and Roll Foundation. She travels around the country speaking about the dangers of drinking and driving. Chelsea grew up dancing and her passion for dance has continued even after her injury. She is the Co-Founder of the Walk and Roll wheelchair Dance Team. Find more information at https://www.chelsiehill.com/.