Last Updated:

Advocates Get $1 Mil For Serving Injury Survivors

Three advocates in the spinal cord injury field are $1 million richer as a thanks for their generosity.

Three advocates in the spinal cord injury field are $1 million richer as a thanks for their generosity.

In a historic development for the field of spinal cord injury, the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation Thursday announced the creation of the Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize.

The foundation says inaugural recipients Andrea Dalzell, Dr. Brian K. Kwon, and Reveca Torres are not afraid to take bold risks and foster and advocate for new ideas.

They are influential voices for, and reflect the diversity of, the spinal cord injury community, spanning those who live with injury, their caregivers and health care providers, organizations devoted to maximizing opportunities for persons with injury and scientific and medical researchers.

The Visionary Prize honors the memory and legacy of Craig H. Neilsen, an American entrepreneur who was severely injured in a car accident in 1985, leaving him quadriplegic, with only minimal function of his left hand. Prize organizers say Neilsen's tenacity and extraordinary focus fueled his success in business after his accident. The prize recipients reflect many of the qualities for which he was well known, including his remarkable determination, inexhaustible passion, and an ability to inspire those around them.

Reveca Torres is an artist and nonprofit director in Chicago. In 2009, she founded BACKBONES, a nonprofit connecting people with spinal cord injury to their communities. Through her work with BACKBONES, Torres has proven that activities like yoga, photography, theatre, and fashion design can be made accessible to people of all abilities. Torres says she uses painting, illustration, photography, film, movement, and other media as a form of expression as a tool for advocacy and social justice.

"(It's about) being able to help other people like myself, you know, go through that journey and be able to hopefully thrive and live a good quality of life," she says.

Andrea Dalzell BSN, RN, has been on the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis as a registered nurse in New York City, and is one of only a few wheelchair-using nurses in the country. She became a nurse in 2018, even learning to box in order to build up the strength to administer CPR.

Brian K. Kwon, MD, PhD, FRCSC, has made several landmark contributions to treatment and rehabilitation in his dual role as an attending orthopedic spine surgeon at Vancouver General Hospital and a scientific researcher at the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries in Vancouver, BC, Canada.  Additionally, Dr. Kwon has established a biobank to share valuable tissue specimens with other scientists in an effort to help the international research community move forward faster in the search for new therapies.

"it's really that instantaneous moment of change in (patient) lives that is really striking," Kwon says about spinal cord injury. " (That's) inspiration for why we want to try to make a difference."


First Published: