Rejoining Joy

Ways of living

Sportingthon: Giving Hope

Help people who are injured, ill, and with disability.

Rehabilitation psychologists deal with psychological aspects of injury and illness. One of our defining features is that often we work in team with other professionals, including physicians. Also, we might work with the families involved. We attempt to understand the whole system.

It is so rewarding being a rehabilitation psychologist, but it is disheartening when I see a shortage in funding. Maybe this idea will help. Please let me know.

In watching students in one half of the gymnasium playing basketball with so much energy and other students playing indoor soccer, I wondered how we could harness that energy and spirit to help the needy who cannot get energy for much of anything. There are so many people with disabilities or in need of rehabilitation who require help. However, many of them do not have access to institutional or financial resources.

- A children's hospital with a large rehabilitation unit needs an advanced MRI machine for brain and body scans that would help injured and sick children, but funds are not available.

- John is in a serious motor vehicle collision and ends up paralyzed. He is ineligible for basic government services and his insurance services are limited.

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- The local rehabilitation hospital is feeling the budget cuts and does not know how to cover the needs of its patients.

- Joanna develops a serious medical condition; not one government or insurance plan covers the cost of her medications. Her parents start to sell their house.

- A state brain association wants to have a well-known speaker come to its next meeting. He had been developing a program that could help the daily lives of people with brain injuries. But funds are lacking.

Perhaps there are ways to tap the energy of children and empower them to help those in need. For example, they could have schools organize basketball "Hoopathons" to raise funds. In addition, it would be helpful if people with disabilities could be involved in raising funds. They could be equally empowered by participating in sporting events for charitable purposes.

In the following, I describe some organizational principles of a proposed charitable organization that could be mounted to meet the challenge of:

(a)     raising funds for people with disabilities and in need of rehabilitation, and

(b)     empowering students and youths to participate in the fundraising, as well as people with disabilities.

1. The name of this nonprofit fund raising organization could be Sportingthon [e.g., sportingthon.org]. It would help organize events such as hoopathons, shootathons, and good old funathons involving sports. The pull heading could be "Helping Rehabilitation through Sporting Thons."

2. Although the major focus of the organization should be to help in the area of rehabilitation/ disability, other tracks could be added as the organization evolves.

3. A possible mission statement might include: The primary organizational goal is to empower young people and/or people with disabilities (PWD)/ enablements to take charge of raising funds for rehabilitation.

4. The children / PWDs undertaking the fundraising should have mentors helping them out, such as teachers or rehabilitation workers. Adults/ helpers who would be helping organize should not do the work itself, unless there is no choice.

5. In addition, part of the empowerment process should include having the groups that raise funds help in deciding which organizations should get the funds that are raised (e.g., rehabilitation institutes, children's hospitals that include rehabilitation, head injury associations, trauma associations, pain associations).

6. Another possible component of the organization is that donors and other stakeholders work together to help raise funds. For example, insurers and banks could approach schools and organizations involving PWD.

7. The usual goal of sportathons is to raise funds at children's schools, and the amounts are limited. The goal of the present organization would be quite different. The students/ PWD should not be responsible for getting sponsors themselves, and they should not be asked to raise money from their families.

8. Rather, sponsors/ stakeholders would contribute monies to the organization, and once they are collected they would be released by the sporting events.

9. To further the empowerment process, the children/ PWD should be informed of the financial amounts that their charitable activity has released, to where they have been disbursed, and how this has helped.

10. The funds could be earmarked for research, in particular. In this way, the organization would emphasize the importance of science to young people, too.

If Sportingthon can be launched, or if the idea for it otherwise inspires more fundraising activities in your community, we could see stories such as the following:

- To help a local wheelchair athlete go to a Special Olympathon, community fundraisers are organized.

- A city hospital no longer has to cut back staff that help people in the community re-integrate socially and vocationally after their stay in the trauma unit.

- A community organization of people with various disabilities is satisfied in its search for more funds to help make its point that they are people with enablements more than disabilities and that they deserve a national program supporting their educational and retraining needs.

- Young people in one court no longer face jail time because rehabilitation and training services are available.

- A school board that prides itself on its charitable attitude to children helps students with disabilities.

If you would like to help discuss and launch the proposed charitable organization, or otherwise act to raise funds in your community for the cause described, please contact me at asapil@glendon.yorku.ca, or 416-247-1625.

Generally, my blog entries examine self-help themes, and they could help people in rehabilitation and people with disabilities, as well. In addition, I have founded another nonprofit organization that you can check out as www.asapil.org.

Gerald Young, Ph.D., is a professor of psychology at York University.

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