Starting an internship, for many, can be scary. You never know what kind of journey is in front of you, or even better, what kind of tasks you’ll be performing. I’ve heard horror stories of interns getting placed in closets with office supplies, or others where interns were simply invisible until they were needed.
Three months ago I stepped into the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Short Hills, NJ office (at right) not knowing what to expect. All I knew was that I had the opportunity to intern for the Foundation. Little did I know that this wouldn’t be just an internship, it would be a life changing experience.
I remember my first days as an intern were hectic, exciting, and nerve wracking. I started with two other communications interns right as the announcement about Rob Summers and EpiStim was made. It was thrilling to see the Foundation, which I was now interning for, help people living with paralysis literally take steps forward.
As if the breakthrough wasn’t enough excitement, I had the opportunity to volunteer at Life Rolls On’s flagship program, They Will Surf Again (pictured below). If you didn’t get a chance to read my Daily Dose about it earlier, it was absolutely amazing! Not only did I get a nice tan at the beach, but I got to watch people living with paralysis throw their boundaries away and glide into shore on a surfboard.
Through all this excitement I also worked with Team Reeve and some individuals running the 2011 ING New York City Marathon, 2011 Bank of America Chicago Marathon, and the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon. I got to listen to each one of their stories, why they were running the marathon, and what their motivation is. I can’t even tell you how inspired I am from each and every one of these dedicated Team Reeve members (maybe I’ll even run next year’s marathon!) Chris Cawley, Molly Ruben, Molly Umble, Matt Bledsoe, Mike Buckley, Kathy Adams, and Deedee McCarty – you are all FABULOUS people with truly touching stories.
Here’s the fun project that I like to call, my child (no really, ask Rob and Janelle, it’s my child), it can also be known as the 2011 Holiday Gift Guide for People Living with Paralysis. I still like “my child” better. This project has been such an astonishing experience. I got to surf the internet all day long looking for products and even got some free samples for community members to test out. Keep a look out for my child ... err… I mean the Gift Guide and some great products.
Don’t worry, my journey doesn’t stop there! What would an incredible internship be without a benefit concert to attend? Well maybe just an internship, but hey this is one of the many things that’s made it unforgettable. Attending Reeve Rocks at Tenjune in New York City allowed me to see Jesse Ruben and Parachute perform, but what’s even better is I got to see how many people support the Foundation. Now, full disclosure, I am a 21-year-old college student, but I LOVE my sleep! With that being said, staying out late on a work night is not what I usually do. But for this event, I put my big girl pants on and ignored my bed time. What shocked me was how many people, who probably had work the next morning, came out to support the Foundation. It never fails to blow me away each and every day how many people are willing to give.
What an exciting three months, right? I know, I know, you’re probably asking why I would ever end my internship after great experiences like those. Well, I asked myself the same question, so I decided not to. Rather than getting placed in a closet and ignored by my supervisors, I decided to stay as a volunteer so I can continue to absolutely love what I do every single day I walk into the office. (Team Reeve manager, Leigh, and I pictured below at Reeve Rocks.)
I’ve had experiences that hurt and changed my life, but I don’t know if I would be able to stay strong through a spinal cord injury resulting in paralysis. Having to relearn the way things are done in life is a curveball that no one would choose, but to every single person that has done it, I give you more credit than I could ever explain. This Foundation has shown me what true strength is. From interviewing those running marathons and hearing each of their stories, to selling raffle tickets at a benefit concert, each event has been a journey within itself where I’ve learned what “strength” really means.
I gained more knowledge in these past three months than I thought I would. I look forward to my journey as a volunteer, but I would like to leave you with a few snippets of a recent Team Reeve interview I did. Deedee McCarty’s son, Nate Bibaud, was injured in a car accident. At 27-years-old he is now living with paralysis, but the two refuse to settle for life in a wheelchair. Her endless advocacy truly touched me. Maybe it’s because her love and determination for her son remind me of my own mother’s, but she gave me chills during our interview and here’s why …
It’s made him and I closer, but I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy … Just to watch your child struggle and not being able to do things. He was just getting ready to soar. He had an architectural job offer on the table. He was just getting ready to fly.
Ultimately, we are not settling for life in the chair. The ultimate goal is to get out of the chair. That’s the forefront of every day. Some people may think that’s a little bit of denial, that you just need to accept it, but you don’t need to accept it.
Christopher Reeve taught everybody to dream the impossible. We have a goal and we are not stopping short of it.
A mother’s love is the secret. My love for him and what I want for his future drives me to keep building relationships, connecting with people, putting more people together, and letting people know what he’s going through. It’s just being a tireless advocate, that’s really the key.
Reeve Foundation Communications Intern
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