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Everyday Heroes Make Dreams of Recovery Come True

By S. Mathur

It can happen so quickly. A car accident, a holiday outing gone wrong, and life changes for ever. Injuries to the spinal cord can lead to paralysis, leaving individuals and their families struggling to cope with the harsh new reality. Cindy Donald, the Founder of Dreams of Recovery, understands what that's like, because she's been through it herself. After an accident left her paralyzed, her courage in coping with the situation brought together neighbors to help out in any way they could.

Donald recalls that it all began with a man in red shorts: "One afternoon I was sitting in my driveway enjoying the sun and thinking about what life was going to be like for me when all of a sudden a man wearing red shorts came up my driveway. He said, "I see you out here a lot and I always wanted to stop and talk to you." He asked how I was doing and I told him I was doing okay and kind of explained to him about my accident. He told me that he was a survivor of lung cancer and he enjoyed walking and being outside himself. That is when I met my new friend, Woody."

Woody shared her story with friends who met every morning at the local bagel shop, and the Bagel Boys, as they came to be called, took it from there. With help from current Atlanta Braves Coach Fredi Gonzalez (pictured above), they organized the first Magic Show & Auction Benefit, and Dreams of Recovery was launched. Helping Donald helped the neighborhood come together: "Our neighbors really rallied around my family to help us out with anything we needed. We were on a 'neighborhood rotation' for dinners, housecleaning and the like. A few ladies would come by and hang out with me so my Mom could get some rest. Turns out my accident really brought the neighborhood together."

The principle of community support still underlies the work of Dreams of Recovery, which helps those suffering paralysis due to spinal cord and/or brain injury to obtain therapy and therapeutic equipment not covered by insurance.

Recovery is a long, slow process, and Donald says, "We want to make a lasting difference in the lives of these individuals so our grants are large in nature. Three months of therapy amounts to $12,000.00, a Functional Electrical Stimulation Bike (FES) is $15,000.00. Research shows that it takes 3 months of therapy to learn and retain a skill, therapy is $100 per hour. The FES bike is typically granted to those who live in rural areas or do not have transportation to an approved facility for therapy."

As the neighborhood once rallied around Cindy and her family, the local community and businesses have come through for Dreams of Recovery, allowing them to continue their programs. Volunteers are welcome, and, Donald says, "can expect to take away a feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment and also a better understanding of what it is like to live with paralysis or brain injuries. These individuals we help are the heroes- their determination is astounding!"

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