Portland, OR. Unlike many nonprofits, online operations are no new challenge for BACKBONES. This organization provides support and education for people with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D). In-person meetups like that pictured above have been replaced by monthly peer-to-peer chats. The BACKBONES team already worked remotely, according to Executive Director Reveca Torres. They have successfully continued their online-based leadership program and boosted attendance for their monthly virtual meet-up group PeerConnect.
PeerConnect provides a space for people with SCI/D to take their minds off their worries and build relationships. Program Coordinator Shannon Kelly chooses conversational topics and activities for the group. Lately, numbers have grown. “At first, it was just a few people, and now we’ve had a consistent number of attendees,” says Torres. On September 19th, PeerConnect will host a discussion on managing mental health during COVID.
The BACKBONES Leaders Program also took place over video call pre-pandemic. As a result, social distancing and shelter-in-place orders were not major obstacles. The Leaders Program prepares individuals with SCI/D to advocate for others, be civically aware, and serve as role models. On October 22nd, BACKBONES will host a virtual celebration of this year’s participants and discuss plans for next year.
Before the pandemic, backbones created events and experiences that promote awareness and engage people of all abilities.
Despite BACKBONES’s preparedness, COVID did introduce new challenges for the organization. Many have turned to BACKBONES for help managing their healthcare mid-pandemic: for example, providing protective equipment for in-home caregivers. The nonprofit’s board had to cancel some in-person events. Economic hardships have made donations slow down. Also, some in the SCI/D community also feel an added layer of anxiety due to talks of ‘medical rationing.’ “Society doesn’t see disabled lives as valuable often,” Torres explains. “There’s this fear that, if it comes to rationing medical care, that people with disabilities would be at the bottom of that.”
Discussions of bias in medicine and disability rights intertwine with subjects like racism and policing. The Black Lives Matter movement continues to shed light on these topics and encourage solidarity between marginalized groups. “It’s been nice to see that disabled voices have been included. A large number of people with disabilities are victims of police brutality,” says Torres, citing officers’ frequent inability to communicate with autistic, deaf, and mentally ill people.
However, the intersection between racial justice and disabled rights gives Torres hope. According to her: “Everything that’s going on — with COVID, with BLM, with all the issues really — it’s bringing to the surface different issues we all face at the same time and if we work together we can make change in a more efficient way.”
From BACKBONES’s website: BACKBONES exists to help people with spinal cord injury or disease (SCI/D) and their families connect with their communities. We do that by creating events and experiences that promote awareness and engage people of all abilities.
BACKBONES was born when friends and family of Reveca Torres started a fundraising campaign in order to help pay for medical expenses after a spinal cord injury. Surrounded by great people, Reveca realized the importance of a support system to help reach one’s goals after an injury and the impact others with similar injuries had — they provided motivation and confidence that couldn’t be found elsewhere.
With the support and guidance of so many, Reveca Torres and co-founders Veronica Gott, Patricia Mikicic and Annie Gonzalez put a long-time goal into motion and transformed BACKBONES into what it is today: a place to connect with others with the purpose of learning, teaching, and sharing.
Portland, Or. Last summer walkers hit the streets together for the annual Autism Walk, but this year’s fundraiser will be a virtual live-streamed event, according to the Autism Society of Oregon. The free event, for which participants can register online, will be held online at 1 P.M. on Sunday, August 23rd. “Patterns and routines help to make sense of the world for people on the autism spectrum – they’re incredibly important. When those patterns are disrupted, it completely disrupts everything.” Executive Director Tobi Rates provided some insight into life on the spectrum, noting the impact that the disruptions to school, work, and service provisions have had on people experiencing autism: “It’s been traumatic for a lot of people, and it’s an ongoing trauma because it doesn’t look like things are going back to normal anytime soon.”
Participants in this year’s Autism Walk can send videos and photos to ASO by July 14th
Those registered can send in videos and photos of themselves walking or running in their Autism Awareness/ Acceptance T-shirt by July 14th. These will then be featured during the virtual event in a compilation video. Viewers can expect recognitions and prize-giveaways for sponsors, as well as guest appearances from Star Wars characters and a Virtual Resource Fair.
Here is a video encapsulating the details of the event:
Adapting the Autism Walk – ASO’s largest fundraiser supporting Oregon and SW Washington programs – to a virtual setting is one of the many ways the organization has been able to maintain a sense of routine for its members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Participants in last year’s walk sporting their awareness gear
Max’s support system celebrating at last year’s finish line
Whether participants choose to walk or run in this year’s event, they can expect the fun to be virtually limitless.
Year-End update: “Flaming enthusiasm, backed up by horse sense and persistence, is the quality that most frequently makes for success.” The unknown author of this quote must know something about an organization driven by an important mission. Thanks to the horse sense, persistence and the flaming enthusiasm of athletes, volunteers, donors, staff, and Board of Directors, Special Olympics Oregon had an exciting year of success!
Special Olympics Oregon Summer State Games 2011
Special Olympics Oregon 2011
From Special Olympics Oregon:
Our number of individuals with intellectual disability served increased statewide by 17%.
Our grand Summer State Games returned after a two-year economy-triggered suspension.
Our 30 volunteer-driven Local Programs serving our participants year-round in every county stayed strong.
Our major fundraising events – The Governors’ Gold Awards, The Bite of Oregon, Polar Plunge – exceeded expected revenue.
Our quota of volunteer Special Olympics Oregon coaches increased from 35 newly-trained in 2010 to 227 in 2011.
Our number of great friends increased – more companies, individuals and organizations caught the vision of Special Olympics Oregon’s momentous impact on the lives of thousands with intellectual disabilities, their families and their communities. Over and over again, we heard those magnificent words: I want to help.
Special Olympics Oregon Polar Plunge 2011
Special Olympics Oregon Governors' Gold Awards 2011
More from Special Olympics Oregon:
To all of you, we say with full hearts, “Thank you.” You have helped in ways you may not even imagine. You have changed lives, changed hearts, changed the world. We are most grateful. Hear first hand from athletes and coaches what Special Olympics Oregon has meant to them this year:
What does Special Olympics Oregon mean to you?
Special Olympics Oregon (SOOR) has given my son a chance to be included and accepted just the way he is. They have provided priceless and endless resources for us as parents. Most importantly SOOR has filled our hearts with joy. My son has a chance to actually be on a team, playing a sport that he loves right at his own school! I am thankful for a way to fulfill his dreams and wishes! Thank you SOOR, without you it would not be possible! (Kristy Minor,Special Olympics Oregon Parent)
How did you get your start in Special Olympics Oregon?
I started participating in Special Olympics Oregon back in the 1992 softball season. It was one of the best moves that I ever made for myself. It has been 17 seasons that I have been a Special Olympics Oregon Athlete and I can tell you from personal experience that I have enjoyed each and every game that I have played over the years. I never think of just myself. It is very important to me that I get my teammates involved with the games that we all play as a team. We all win and lose as one team and NOT individual players. Playing games in all sports for Special Olympics Oregon is a lot of fun. I just never want it to end. (Nathan LaMarche,Special Olympics Oregon Athlete)
What has Special Olympics Oregon done for you this year?
Special Olympics is one of those rare and amazing opportunities to be a part of something bigger than myself. As a coach I get to look into each athlete and see endless possibilities that they may not even know they have. I can set goals and see the athletes far surpass them. As a parent of an athlete, I get to see my daughter make friends that are unconditionally loving and accepting. We all get to treat each other as precious, valuable, gifted and strong! There is always encouragement and recognition available to everyone. I have seen over the last 21 years so many lives changed for the better, and relationships built that last a lifetime. With every challenge is a miracle getting ready to happen! (Cindy Miguel,Special Olympics Oregon Coach)
Help us reach one more athlete this holiday season by contributing a tax-deductable gift to Special Olympics Oregon. Volunteer this year with Special Olympics Oregon and help us continue to serve the largest disability population in the state.
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