It’s easy for me to explain the core activities of The Woody Foundation, we raise money to improve the lives of those living with paralysis. We distribute funds to The Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis, Shake-A-Leg Miami, Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital and we utilize funds to purchase and distribute Woody Packs to those with limited hand functioning free of charge. We help several other programs and foundations that our board thinks are worthwhile, we do as much as we can.
The Woody Foundation also does some things that can’t really be boxed. One year the Foundation answered the wish of a high school freshman’s request in the “Wish Book” section of the Miami Herald. The Herald does it every year, they publish a list of people that need a little help and list a few items that would make their Christmas a little bit better.
Two years ago we answered the Christmas wish of a young man we’ll call, “John.” Like most high school freshman, John wanted a laptop or tablet so he could listen to music, look at YouTube and go on Facebook. We ended up getting him a tablet-laptop hybrid and he loved it. What started as just a gift became something much bigger. John had not ever used a computer in his life so every few weeks I’d stop by and teach him how to use it. And it was during those sessions that we became great friends.
Things as simple as listening to music on YouTube or checking out Facebook are his favorite things to do now and it’s been a great educational tool – I’ve noticed his growth, it’s incredible.
I’m a quadriplegic and have limited hand functioning, but I can drive car, I can speak clearly and I manage to get by with a little help from my friends – John has cerebral palsy. John doesn’t speak well, he struggles to control his body and hands; he relies on others for just about everything. So every other week or so I stop by his home and help him do some teenager stuff like download music or accept Facebook friend requests. We hangout and talk about music or whatever else John wants to do. He’s said some incredible things to me during our visits, I’ll never forget the time he said, “Woody, when I got cerebral palsy, I thought my life was over, but look how far I’ve come.” Or the time he said, “You know, I’ve got to change my soft guy image.” We laughed about that one, I still laugh at that one.
Before I was paralyzed, I didn’t know much about kids like John with cerebral palsy. I didn’t know about the different causes of paralysis. I had a spinal cord injury, which is the second leading cause of paralysis – strokes are the leader and multiple sclerosis is third. There’s also Neurofibromatosis, traumatic brain injuries, post-polio syndrome, birth defects and others. I didn’t know about any of this.
I spent three months recovering in Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital and there were dark days during that time. I wondered how I was going to continue my life as a quadriplegic.
Another thing I didn’t know is there were people like John in the world that needed me.