Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame

2006 Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame Inductees Honored at Kennedy Center Gala Bethesda, MD – Fourteen of the best and brightest in the spinal cord injury (SCI) community were honored at the second annual SCI Hall of Fame™ induction ceremony and gala at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on the evening of October 30th, hosted by author and journalist, John Hockenberry, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in its inaugural year.

Formed by the National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) in 2005, the SCI Hall of Fame was created to recognize excellence and honor individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to quality of life and advancements toward a better future for all individuals with spinal cord injury. Participation in this year’s process was strong, with nearly 100 nominees nationwide.

This year’s inductees and their categories included: Dr. Michael Boninger, Executive Director of the Center for Assistive Technology at the University of Pittsburgh (Assistive Technology), The Medtronic Foundation (Benefactor), Stanley T. Sigman, Chairman and CEO of Atlanta-based Cingular Wireless (Corporate Executive), Joni Eareckson-Tada, author and founder of Joni and Friends (Disability Activist), Cindy Purcell, Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (Disability Educator), Lisa Thorson, advocate for full access to the arts and co-founder of Next Move Unlimited (Entertainment), James Shepherd, Founder and Chairman of the Board of Shepherd Center(Entrepreneur), Gordon Mansfield, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs (Government Executive), Bob Kafka, Co-Director of ADAPT (Grassroots Organizer), Congressman James Langevin (Legislative), Joe Shapiro, author and reporter for National Public Radio(Media), Dr. Barth Green, co-founder, President and Clinical Program Director of the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis (Research in Basic Science), Lex Freiden, Senior Vice President at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (Research in Quality of Life) and Dave Kiley, noted wheelchair athlete and director of Turning Point (Sports). In addition to the 14 Hall of Fame categories, NSCIA presented an Emerging Leader Award to Cody Unser, founder of the Cody Unser First Step Foundation, for exceptional leadership qualities in a local or regional capacity toward the improvement of opportunities or quality of life for persons living with SCI. To learn about all this year’s nominees, visit www.spinalcord.org.

The ceremony was hosted by NSCIA in conjunction with the second Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Summit™, October 29th – November 1, 2006, at the Hyatt Regency in Bethesda, MD, and was supported by a wide range of sponsors including The Medtronic Foundation, The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, Mr. & Mrs. Robert Klein, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Allergan, Inc., Acorda Therapeutics, Henry H. Kessler Foundation, Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), Microsoft, Motorola, McDonald's Corporation, Cingular Wireless, Abilities Expo, Astratech, Quickie / Sunrise Medical, Restorative Therapies, Ron Shapiro Charitable Foundation, Christopher Reeve Foundation, Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation, The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, The Shepherd Center, New Mobility Magazine, Ability Magazine and HDI Publishers Pat Maher, chairman of the nomination, voting and selection process, shares his perspective on the significance of the Hall of Fame. “What has been most rewarding for me has been learning how many outstanding persons and organizations are working to better the quality of life for persons living with spinal cord injury. The heartfelt language used in nominating in every category suggests how deeply impacting the work of these nominees has been and will continue to be.”

Through an online voting process, members of NSCIA were able to vote for the nominees they believed were most deserving in each category. Each member’s vote was counted only once to ensure a fair voting process. After open voting, the nominees with the highest number of votes were reviewed by a Voting Selection Committee, with representation from across the SCI spectrum, who determined the inductees in each category Last year’s first-ever SCI Hall of Fame gala event honored 10 individuals who have made significant contributions to quality of life and advancements toward a better future for all individuals with spinal cord injury. Those 10 inaugural inductees, and their categories, were: Christopher Reeve, Benefactor; Teddy Pendergrass (PA), Entertainment; Marilyn Hamilton (CA), Entrepreneur; Senator Tom Harkin (IA), Legislative; Barry Corbet, Disability Awareness/Activism; John Hockenberry (NY), Media; Randy Snow (TX), Sports; Rory Cooper (PA), Assistive Technology; Duane French (WA), Corporate/Government Executive, and Wise Young (NJ), Research. Many of the inaugural group attended the Gala to welcome the new inductees.

The mission of The National Spinal Cord Injury Association (NSCIA) is to enable people with spinal cord injury and disease (SCI/D) to achieve their highest level of independence, health, and quality of life. NSCIA actively advocates for best practices and public policies that proactively affect people with SCI/D, their families and service providers. The Association conducts public policy initiatives through its local chapters and at the national level and actively collaborates with other national organizations on issues of mutual concern. For more information, visit www.spinalcord.org or call (800) 962-9629.

Disability Educator – The nominees for this category will have a spinal cord injury or disease and will have established a record of educating the public toward a clearer understanding of living with SCI. While it is preferable that the nominees are providing this education in-person, other forms of transferring knowledge about living with SCI may be accepted such as a strong internet presence and material. HOF 2006 Nominees:

Disability Educator - Michelle White, also known as “Spiney,” has a Masters Degree in Special Education and is a teacher at Ebenezer Elementary School. Miss White, as she is called by many students, is different from most, if not all. Miss White had a major life changing accident in September of 2001. While parachuting, the powered parachute she was in was thrown off by a sudden gust of wind, causing the craft to come down. Miss White broke her neck at the C-5 level, resulting in a spinal cord injury.

As a result, Spiney, the lead character in her book "New Opportunities" was born. "New Opportunities" is a true account of Miss White's real-life confrontation with disability. Spiney is a porcupine that experiences an accident resulting in spinal cord injury.

Through Spiney, Miss White teaches the reader three important lessons: That having a disability does not have to hold you back, that when you get "stuck" you must keep looking for ways to overcome, and that it is OK to do things differently from others.

Miss White realized that both children and adults needed to be educated about spinal cord injury and overcoming obstacles. The story has provided her with a teaching resource to use with people of all age levels. For younger audiences, it teaches that it is OK to be different. For older children and adults, it is a story of inspiration and pursuing dreams.

Throughout the past year, Miss White has been presenting her story and educating students about spinal cord injury in several area schools. She spoke to Cedar Crest High School P. E. classes on how to stay safe and encouraged students not to give up on themselves no matter what happens. She spoke with many elementary students through the story. The children had the opportunity to ask questions about the accident and being in a wheelchair. The children walked away with a greater acceptance of differences.

Michelle is very active in her local Spinal Support Group and is currently organizing their website. In the past year she has been in the news, on the radio and on "Cool Schools.” She is this year's recipient of Lebanon Valley Colleges Young Alumni Award and Pecan Inc's recipient of the Arpeggio Award which is presented to a well known artist known for their work with youth through the arts. Published: 2006-08-07

Last updated 1.2.09