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 email@example.com. To find out more or make a much-needed donation to support the program, visit our website www.scia.org.au.
Here’s to taking the next steps with Walk On.
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.
ENTER HERE: http://www.flickr.com/groups/walkon.