Eyes Wide Open

A Perspective From Within


Will2Walk Foundation

I discovered the Will2Walk foundation last year. They graciously helped me with funding for an RT300 FES Bike, which has a price tag as much as a new compact car. Sadly, anything that is remotely attached to the word “disability” is terribly inflated in price, which is an expensive reality that I’ve been dealing with.

Functional Electrical Stimulus (FES) is a well established rehabilitation technique that uses pulses of electrical current to stimulate peripheral nerves evoking muscle contractions and patterned muscle activity. FES creates patterned movement in arms, legs and trunk, and enables muscles to work and perform activities even though the muscles may be weak or paralyzed through neurological disease or injury.  The RT300 combines the benefits of FES with cycling, and guides the muscle activity evoked by FES into a useful pattern.

The Will2Walk, an Arizona-based nonprofit dedicated to raising awareness of spinal cord injury research and improving quality of life for individuals living with spinal cord injuries, has a program 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. They  award up to $5,000 to qualified individuals and organizations and recently announced their 2015 quarterly schedule of application deadlines and decision dates for scholarships and sponsorships. Applications are evaluated by the Will2Walk Board of Directors to determine funding for requests that improve daily life for those living with spinal cord injury or organizations committed to research.

If you know a person or organization who can benefit from Will2Walk, please pass on this valuable information to them. If you need a great organization to donate to, trust me…they make an immediate impact on the end-user. www.will2walk.org

Below is the information on their program deadlines. Amy Munoz is their contact person. Her info is included below as well.



The Miami Project Human Trials Have Begun!

I wanted to share this letter that Ross just received today from Nick and Marc Buoniconti regarding the first transplantation of the Schwann cells in a human! This is HUGE news for people with SCI. A cure is not too far in the horizon!


Dear Friend:

This has been one of the most exciting days ever at The Miami Project and The Buoniconti Fund! As one of The Miami Project’s biggest supporters, I wanted you to be one of the first to know that Miami Project doctors and scientists have performed the first ever FDA approved Schwann cell transplantation in an individual with a new spinal cord injury.

The transplantation procedure was conducted by Drs. Allan Levi and Jim Guest. The participant had a neurologically complete thoracic spinal injury and received the transplantation of autologous Schwann cells approximately 4 weeks post-injury. There have been no adverse events and the team is moving forward with the trial. The procedure is a Phase 1 clinical trial designed to evaluate the safety and feasibility of transplanting the patient’s own Schwann cells.

“This historic clinical trial represents a giant step forward in a field of medicine where each tangible step has tremendous value. The trial and these first patients in this trial specifically, are extremely important to our mission of curing paralysis,” said Dr. Barth Green, Co-Founder.

“The Miami Project team includes hundreds of scientists, clinicians, and technicians who have joined hands to make the ‘impossible possible’, for which this trial is a key goal and dream now being realized. This achievement reaffirms that the tens of millions of dollars and the incalculable work hours were well invested in this first of a kind human Schwann cell project.”

Led by Miami Project Scientific Director Dr. Dalton Dietrich, the Schwann cell clinical trial team at The Miami Project is composed of a multi-disciplinary group of basic science and clinical faculty members, scientific staff, and regulatory personnel focused on advancing the trial.

“As a basic scientist, the hope is always to increase knowledge and discovery. Not every day are you able to see that translated into the clinical realm with the hopes of bettering the lives of those suffering, so this Phase I clinical trial is a vital step for the field of SCI research, and for The Miami Project team that has been working diligently on this therapeutic concept for more than a quarter of a century. This trial, when completed successfully, will lay the critical foundation for future cell-based therapies to target spinal cord injuries,” said Dr. Dietrich.

Because of YOUR support and the dedication of our scientists and doctors, a cure for paralysis is on the horizon. No longer are we just talking about cells in petri dishes with the hopes that some day in the distant future they could be translated into a possible new therapy. Today, we are actually operating on people and testing the safety of Schwann cells in people with a spinal cord injury.

This is such an exciting time at The Miami Project and I hope we can count on your continued support. Thank you for believing in us.


Nick Buoniconti
Marc Buoniconti

Leave a comment

And The Gold Goes To…

Jackson Memorial Hospital brought a unique version of the Olympics to South Florida.

The power wheelchairs obstacle course, the 30-foot speed walk for patients who are relearning how to use their legs, timed push ups and chin ups. These are some of the competitive events at the JMH Olympics wrapping up this week.

The games took place at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital, and the athletes are patients with spinal cord injuries.

Therapist Cathy Herring started this four years ago during the Beijing Olympics, and now again with the London Games.

At the end of the week, first place winners get a small golden trophy and there are plastic medals for bronze and silver.

Introducing your 2012 Olympic Gold Champion Mary Vaccaro from the United States with 38 Chin-Ups in 1 minute!


Mary Vaccaro on NBC

Jackson Memorial Hospital Hosts JMH Olympics

A unique version of the Olympics was held Monday at Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital. The athletes: patients with spinal cord injuries…


Meanwhile, Mary Vaccaro, from Akron, Ohio, said it was a good thing she wore her Adidas when competing in the chin-ups event. “I beat a couple of 20something males, so I’m very competitive, and I just had to beat their record and then my record too,” she said.