Dawn Setzer of Charlotte, North Carolina was recently awarded a $2,500 scholarship for an Invacare Top End Force 3 Handcycle.
Active in sports and outdoor activities growing up, Dawn became less physically active as an adult due to increasing back pain. In 2007, at age 36, she was tentatively diagnosed with the beginning stages of multiple sclerosis (MS) and developed calcium deposits on her spine from severe arthritis. One day, Dawn was lifting wet laundry from her washing machine when one of the calcium deposits broke, causing damage to her spinal cord at the T8-9 level.
“My injury happened in such a strange way, and since then, I’ve had several other surgeries that have set me back in my rehabilitation,” notes Dawn.
Several years ago, Dawn tried handcycling and loved that it could provide a safe, no-impact way for her to add aerobic exercise back into her life, which would support weight maintenance and strengthen her cardiovascular system. She also liked the social aspect of being able to participate in recreational activities.
“One of the greatest lessons I’ve learned about having a disability is the fact that disability and/or poor health is extremely isolating,” reflects Dawn. “Spending time alone is a necessary part of my life as I need much more rest than I used to—mobility challenges are exhausting, as is chronic pain. But at times when I am physically able to participate in recreational activities, being able to socialize with others is an awesome benefit!”
Prior to receiving her handcycle, Dawn described her level of activity as very low, partly due to chronic pain and partly due to a lack of funds to purchase needed equipment. Now, she is using her handcycle and making progress toward rebuilding her endurance, strength, and cardiovascular functioning.
A graduate of Wake Forest University with B.A. degrees in Psychology and Religious Studies, Dawn worked with, and advocated for, people with mental health and cognitive challenges. She then obtained a Masters Degree in Counseling just a few months prior to her injury. Although she is not currently working, Dawn hopes to one day return to her advocacy work, this time with a focus on people with physical disabilities.
Dawn plans to ‘pay it forward’ by participating in cycling events where disabled athletes raise money for adaptive sports programs. “I truly want to use this bike to help others as well as myself.”
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The Will2Walk Scholarship & Sponsorship Program is designed to provide funding to individuals and qualified organizations that exemplify how those with spinal cord injuries can live a healthy, active and independent lifestyle. If you or someone you know could benefit from the Will2Walk Scholarship & Sponsorship Program, details can be found at Will2Walk.org.