Our story is among one of the many that starts as a fun filled day and ends in tragedy. While celebrating a family wedding on the beach in Cuba, February 2009, my husband Kevin Mills, age 28 at the time, was driven head first into the sand by a wave. Luckily, his new brother-in-law was able to pull him out of the water and to safety. Kevin broke his neck, sustaining a Spinal Cord Injury (SCI), was diagnosed a C4 ASIA A, quadriplegic and had no feeling or movement below the shoulders. Kevin and I were both Advanced Care Paramedics in Toronto and now have experienced the medical system as both providers and patients. We have learned through our experiences that you must seek out and strive to provide the best care possible for your loved ones. We found that care at a SCI Recovery Centre in California, called Project Walk. We felt this specialized program style should be available to our community and so began the process of building our unique not-for-profit SCI recovery centre, serving all of Ontario and beyond. As a result of the hard work of family, friends and the community, we raise the funds and opened the doors to Walk It Off Spinal Cord Wellness Centre Inc. on January 21, 2012.
The costs incurred by someone with a SCI are astronomical and unfortunately our services are not covered by OHIP. WALK IT OFF has chosen to be Not-For-Profit to maintain an affordable program so benefits from our services can reach as many people in need as possible. As WALK IT OFF becomes better known we hope to attract more benefactors to support a scholarship fund, which assists clients in supplementing the recovery costs and for those who cannot afford a recovery program.
There are 85,556 Canadians living with SCI and 4257 occurrences every year. In Ontario, the number is 33,000, with approximately 600 new cases a year. York Region makes up 8% of Ontario’s population accounting for approximately 2720 people with SCIs and 48 cases yearly (reported by the Rick Hansen Foundation). Though SCIs can affect all ages, eighty-four percent of people who sustain a SCI are under 34 years of age. Because SCIs have such an impact on our youth, we have developed a SCI prevention and awareness program designed for our youth, taught by our youth.
Walk it Off Recovery was a proud recipient of a Character Community Foundation of York Region Award in 2013.