Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Grants a New Start for Those with Spinal Cord Injuries

Orlando Health was recently awarded a $53,000 grant from the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation to help support those affected by spinal cord injury or disease. The grant, ‘Creating Opportunities for Independence’ was used to purchase adaptive exercise equipment and fund a one-year membership for up to 15 participants at a local gym.

The gym chosen by Orlando Health’s rehabilitation team to partner in creating an adaptive and immersive experience is SOCF CrossFit located on S. Orange Ave. The program started at SOCF in April 2018 after Crossroads Adaptive Athletic Alliance trained the instructors on how to work with athletes who have been paralyzed or have spinal cord related diseases.

“The focus of receiving this grant and creating a wellness program, was to be able to integrate those with spinal cord injury or disease into classes with everyone else and not just put them in a class by themselves,” explained Erin Jones, rehabilitation educator, Orlando Health Rehabilitation Institute. “After meeting Rob and Guillermo, the co-owners of SOCF, we felt they would be a great fit to partner with us. Rob is hearing impaired and understands the desire to be treated the same as everyone else. We have received some great feedback about the gym and the instructors from the participants and hope to continue the program past one year.”

Seeing a Difference

Since April, four participants have attended SOCF on a regular basis and are already seeing an improvement in their strength and stamina. Albert, CJ, David and Tom all rely on a wheelchair to get around, but that doesn’t stop them from bench pressing, climbing ropes or participating in classes with other cross fit enthusiasts.

Albert (pictured above) started the program when it began in April to lose weight and get better stamina and balance. After just a few months, he is now able to get out of his pool by himself.

David (pictured above) started in April and likes that the workout keeps his heart beating, is improving his flexibility and gets him out of the house.

CJ (pictured above) started the program in late May. He likes that CrossFit gives him a different workout than a basic rehab center and has a sense of comradery.

About the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation

Established by Craig H. Neilsen in 2002 as a private foundation, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation is dedicated to supporting both programs and scientific research to improve the quality of life for those affected by and living with spinal cord injury. Mr. Neilsen was a prominent real estate developer who founded the casino gaming company, Ameristar Casinos, Inc.