A Triumph Founed on Trails
A recovering paraplegic helps others with paralysis and movement-impairing disabilities.
On November 26, 2004, Andrew Skinner suffered a spinal cord injury in a snowboarding accident, paralyzing him from the neck down and changing his life forever. Since then, Andrew’s been steadily recovering and has made tremendous progress — he’s earned his drivers license, started a small real estate business, married the woman who’s been there for him since before his injury, become a father, and much more. And he continues to be active, playing quad rugby with the Northridge Knights Murderball team.
“After I suffered a spinal cord injury in 2004, I was submerged into a world I never dreamed I would ever join, and I realized how blessed I was to have a great support system,” said Andrew in an interview with élite Magazine.
It was largely because of his wife, family and friends that he’s been able to recover as well as he has. But throughout his journey, Andrew has been aware that not everyone who’s suffered spinal cord injury has been so fortunate. To help change this, Andrew and his wife, Kirsten, started the Triumph Foundation in August 2008.
The Triumph Foundation helps those living with spinal cord injury, paralysis and other physical disabilities in three distinct ways: their newly injured support program, grants, and equipment and adaptive recreation.
The foundation’s support program began with a simple idea: giving those who’ve recently suffered from spinal cord damages plenty of resources and mentorship in order to make the transition into their new life easier. This is achieved through care packages filled with information on programs and opportunities for spinal cord damage victims, support programs, and a mentorship program with ambassadors.
But the Triumph Foundation provides more than information and counseling. Many who suffer from spinal cord injury and other movement-impeding disabilities are discharged from the hospital without a wheelchair, home modifications or other equipment important to their daily life. The Triumph Foundation seeks to fix this by providing proper wheelchairs, ramping, home modifications, assistive technology and hand-controlled vehicles to those financially in need.
The Triumph Foundation also realizes that as important as knowledge and funds are to recovery, it’s also important for those they help to have opportunities to go out and do things as a community, such as recreation. The foundation provides this by facilitating a number of adaptive recreational events throughout the year. For example, on April 29 and 30, the Triumph Foundation is hosting its sixth annual Wheelchair Sports Festival, which will feature events such as quad rugby, basketball, hockey, handcycling and more. There also will be a resource fair and art workshop.
The foundation is making great progress. Last year, the Triumph Foundation gave away more than 200 care packages across 18 different hospitals around Southern California, gifted $50,000 worth of grants and more than $100,000 in recycled medical goods, and held 20 adaptive recreational events. But there’s still plenty that needs doing.
“We’re in a growth stage,” Andrew said. “We’re looking for significant sponsors to help make us have a lasting impact as a foundation. We’ve been grassroots for the past eight years.”
Those interested in helping the Triumph Foundation in this growth can volunteer, donate monetarily or stay updated on their activities in case they ever know someone in need of their help. They can also attend the Wheelchair Sports Festival for free on April 29 and 30 at the Santa Clarita Sports Complex gymnasium.
Living with the effects of a spinal cord injury these past 12 and a half years hasn’t been easy for Andrew.
“I have an impairment personally to my arms and legs,” he said. “There’s impairments to how my insides function … And there’s also the emotional and psycho-social impact of coming to terms with that your life is dramatically changed, and how people might perceive you.”
But through his struggle, Andrew has gained the knowledge and empathy needed to help others with movement-impairing disabilities, and fortunately, he shows no signs of stopping.
Those interested in learning more about the Triumph Foundation can go to their website at triumph-foundation.org for information on the foundation, spinal cord injury and more.