SCI community celebrates progress toward the cure (By: Rich Hamill)

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In August, I had the privilege of attending the Chapters Summit of The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis (TBF). Although Will2Walk has partnered with TBF on golf tournaments in Michigan, this was the first time I was officially invited to participate in the Summit.

The event was much more than I expected—it was educational, collaborative, and a true celebration of how far we’ve come with spinal cord research. The research arm of TBF, The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, had just announced approval from the FDA to begin a revolutionary cell therapy-based human clinical trial using Schwann cells to treat patients with sub-acute spinal cord injury (SCI). This is the first time this type of clinical trial has been approved in the U.S., and is one of the most significant breakthroughs in SCI research and the SCI community since the start of the project. This announcement right before the Summit not only heightened the excitement and energy of the event, but made the experience that much more memorable.

If all goes as planned in the trial, the goal will be to begin work on chronic spinal cord injuries like mine in the next five years. Twenty years ago I was told that within ten years they would have a cure—although we’re a little behind, this gives me hope that one day I may walk again. Human recovery is amazing!

During the Summit, we toured the research facility and met with scientists, which gave us a much better understanding of what they do and where they are at in their quest. However, one of the most rewarding and memorable parts of the experience was meeting and connecting with the people. I had the chance to work directly with other individuals with SCIs, whose similar experiences quickly made them seem like old friends who I’d known forever. The entire TBF staff, including President Mark Buoniconti and his brother, Nick, was extremely knowledgeable and welcoming, which truly added to the experience. Their support of the national chapters and their attendees was phenomenal. They made us feel like we were a part of something much larger—a family connected for the same purpose and goals. We ended up with some great pictures to commemorate the event—check them out in our Photo Gallery.

To cap off the Summit, I ended up winning two tickets to the 27th Annual Great Sports Legends Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City, with proceeds going to The Buoniconti Fund. This will be my first trip to the Great Sports Legends Dinner, as well as the Big Apple, so I am very excited to experience what the dinner and city have in store for me while I’m in town!

Be sure to keep up with the progress of the human clinical trial via The Miami Project website. And check back on will2walk.org for features on the first two grant recipients of our new Life Enhancement Grant Program, which offers financial assistance for equipment and services that provide those with SCIs an opportunity to keep their bodies in optimal condition. Yet another way Will2Walk is helping the injured prepare for the cure!

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