Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On the spot with Kate Greener

Star intern Rachel steals five minutes with one of the dedicated Walk On recovery specialists, Kate Greener, to find out why she thinks Walk On is the bee’s knees.

RC: So Kate, how did you become involved in Walk On?

KG: Luckily for me,
Walk On found me. I was working as a gym supervisor at the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association. I always wanted to be involved in spinal rehabilitation and was frustrated that there was very little available outside of the hospital system. Then in rolled David Prast, who was looking for a venue to bring Walk On to Australia, and the rest is history. I volunteered for Walk On for just over a year and was the third trainer to be sent to Project Walk. I have now been a part of the Walk On team officially for just over a year.

RC: What are some of the big and small achievements you have seen since the pilot began?

KG: The biggest achievement I have seen has been the increase in clients’ independence. When some of the guys started the program, they were driven to the gym, pushed up the ramp by their partners and hoisted on and off equipment. Basically, they were dependent on other people to do a lot of the things we do in our day-to-day lives. Many of them were frustrated, self-conscious, angry and in some cases desperate for something, anything more. It’s then amazing that 6-12 months down the track, some of these clients are driving, transferring, travelling, working and are independent individuals.

RC: Do you feel these achievements have improved clients’ quality of life?

KG: Definitely. With increased strength and fitness comes less health problems such as skin tears, blood pressure issues, urinary tract infections and depression to name a few. In general our clients are happier, healthier, more independent and driven to make the most of life which is very rewarding as a trainer. Nathan Handley walking over the finish line at the
Bridge to Brisbane was a great moment this year, Joe taking his first steps on his crutches and Jayme being able to transfer into a car for the first time since his accident; have all been big moments for me this year.

RC: What is the US Project Walk like in comparison to Walk On?

Project Walk is a truly unique experience. There are people there from all over the world, all under one roof, for the same reason. And it is so big - we would love to have that much space one day! They have many clients and trainers so I learnt lots. Everyone was willing to help you and made us feel welcome. Our facility is smaller but the atmosphere of our gym is something you cannot replicate. Unlike Project Walk, we have people from all disability groups training under one roof. There is a great camaraderie and sense of fun at the gym. Both places offer something different whilst executing a high level of training.

RC: So to wrap it all up, tell me why Walk On is so exciting?

KG: I love that this program gives people a choice to maximise their functional recovery and regain functional independence, confidence and an improved quality of life. This is the first program of its kind in Australia and I'm excited to be a part of it.

Thanks for your time Kate - keep up the good work!


Rachel Caton
Public Relations Intern
Spinal Cord Injuries Australia

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A National Launch to Remember

Last Monday 9 November, during Spinal Cord Injuries Awareness Week, we were fortunate to bring members of the Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) community, their family and friends, supporters and the media together to celebrate the national launch of Walk On at Sydney Opera House.

The launch of this exercise recovery program was a watershed moment for the community in so many ways, to people such as:

  • The founders of Project Walk in the USA who have worked hand-in-hand with us, to deliver a quality Australian version of the original program
  • Our dedicated recovery specialists, who were trained in the USA and who are thrilled by the accomplishments of each of their clients
  • Walk On clients from the Brisbane pilot program and their families, whose hard work and determination has been repaid with the ability to drive a car, feed their kids and other independent everyday activities we take for granted
  • Our potential new clients, who heard about Walk On from SCIA, on the SCI grapevine, in the media or social media and are ready to get involved
  • All the SCIA team, so passionate about expanding the program from Brisbane to Sydney and other cities – making the prospect of regaining functional recovery post-SCI a reality

The Walk On launch was attended by over 100 people, all enjoying the jazz tunes and sparkling Sydney Harbour offered up to us on that summery morning. Despite the lovely surrounds, we were there with purpose – to raise awareness about a groundbreaking spinal cord injury recovery program, how using intensive exercise can stimulate and retrain the damaged nervous system and maximise functional recovery after serious injury.

As I said at the launch, “Walk On isn’t a cure for SCI, we know that, and more importantly our clients know that. Walk On is part of the evolution of recovery given to us by improvements in neurosurgical, acute and rehabilitation care.

“Walk On builds upon these advances, helping people achieve their maximum potential for recovery, to be the very best they can be, to be ready to take full advantage of the advances of tomorrow.

“The beauty of the Walk On program is that it is completely built on promoting independence. And it completely depends on the guts, determination and motivation of participants.”

We were so pleased to have
Bill Shorten MP, Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities and Children’s Services speak and share some heartfelt sentiments. He reminded us that a spinal cord injury can befall any of us and can happen in the blink of an eye.

Bill Shorten spoke of Walk On as one of the hardest and most demanding programs around, but one getting results in people’s rehabilitation post-Spinal Cord Injury. He also touched upon the inequality that stems from compensation being available to some people who experience a SCI and not others.

Shorten said, "It's fantastic we are here launching [Walk On] during Spinal Cord Injuries Awareness Week. [However,] I do not accept that compensation and support in this country should be a lottery. We talk a lot in this country about a fair go. All too often, while some have the support in jurisdictions such as NSW, in other circumstances people are left relying on the support of their families and charities."

While we talk about the 300 people affected by spinal cord injuries every year, and 10,000 Australians nationwide, the number of those impacted is, at the very least, tenfold.

So, I would like to reach out to thank the many friends, family members, colleagues, donors, carers and workers who are helping us to, as
Brisbane participant Rhys says, “build momentum and get these things up and running, keep them running. If we can do that, we can take Spinal Cord Injury away from where it’s been for so many years.”

To refer someone to
Walk On, please email To find out more or make a much-needed donation to support the program, visit our website

Here’s to taking the next steps with Walk On.

Stay strong,


Peter Perry
Chief Executive Officer
Spinal Cord Injuries Australia

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Ps. Take a moment to enter our photo competition celebrating the national launch of Walk On during Spinal Cord Injuries Awareness Week! Simply upload a photo showing “What makes you happy” to our Flickr page for the chance to win a digital camera. Entries close Tuesday 24 November.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A moment in time with Rhys

About a fortnight ago, we visited the Brisbane pilot program of Walk On to film a piece about the national launch of this exciting program for TV. While we were there, I took 15 minutes to talk with one of our superstar determined clients, Rhys. Here's a window into his life and person.

Name: Rhys
Injury: C6/C7 incomplete quadriplegic
Years old when you were injured: 30
Years old now: 33
How did your injury occur? Riding my motorbike in a motorcross competition
How is life different for you, living with a SCI? Opposites, in terms of where I was
Who are your idols or role models? John Maclean, pretty impressive
Do you have a favourite saying, quote or joke? Give me a challenge
What does Walk On represent to you? Progress
Sum up Walk On in three words. Very big opportunity
At school I... got sick of chasing chicks and them running away
I don’t like talking about...the first fight I lost
My most treasured possessions are... my tools for building, my chair, my profile
My mother always told me... to take my shoes off at the door, and stop putting holes in my pants
In the movie of my life, I’d be played by... Russell Crowe
I wish I had... more hand function
I wish I hadn’t... had enough petrol that day to start my motor bike
I’m most passionate about... my family
My most humiliating moment was... shitting myself in bed for three months in hospital
When I was a child I wanted to... play first-grade football
It’s not fashionable, but I love... playing chess on the computer
If only I could... transfer off the floor into my chair
I relax by... listening to music
What I don’t find amusing is... cold chips from McDonalds
If I wasn’t me, I’d like to be... Brian Johnson from ACDC
My worst job was... apprentice plumber
I often wonder... if I had been a better surfer rather than motorbike rider
Sum up what life is all about in three words... Never give up

Signing off for now, as it's time for some shut eye before the national launch of Walk On, tomorrow, at Sydney Opera House.


Leila Mitchell
Partnerships Manager
Spinal Cord Injuries Australia

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Walking into Walk On

My name is Rachel and I’m a 3rd year PR student. I joined Spinal Cord Injuries Australia in July 2009 as an intern assisting with public relations activities for Walk On. Being a Brissie girl, I got to spend a couple of months working out of the Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association Gym in Bowen Hills, which is where the Brisbane Walk On pilot program has been operating.

I came to
Walk On with little knowledge of SCIA, Walk On or spinal cord injuries, but what I have learnt in the four months I have spent with the organisation has been enough to change my outlook forever.

There are the obvious things I have learnt; complete vs incomplete injuries, injury classifications, the hospital process and types of accidents that cause spinal cord injuries; however, the most amazing thing I have learnt is that this exercise recovery program is making the most incredible difference to the lives of participants.

Working so close to the gym, I have met, watched and assisted clients in their training and heard a lot of the stories of the accidents that brought them to
Walk On, but the best bit is hearing where they are going with their new abilities.

Joe Salu, the cheeky and lovable larrikin, has been able to return to work since completing his training to be a tower crane operator; Rhys Tappenden has become a dad for the first time, feeling confident in his ability to be a father to his beautiful little girl; and Nathan Handley, the daredevil-dude, has actually got back on his motorcycle, much to the horror of his poor mum.

What I’ve taken from all these incredible people and
Walk On, is that it doesn’t matter what challenges people face, what others say, or what ‘the chances are’; because where there’s a will, there’s definitely a way.

Thanks for listening,


Rachel Caton
Public Relations Intern
Spinal Cord Injuries Australia

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