As we set out chairs and rearranged tables at the barn last Sunday, we didn’t really know what to expect for our first official meet up. Even with 39 RSVPs on our Facebook page, 18 of which were paralysis survivors using wheelchairs, it was still hard to gauge what the turnout would be. Living with paralysis is difficult. There are so many obstacles in daily life that can pop up at a moments notice and derail even the best laid plans, so we kept our expectations low, hoping to see 60-75% of those who had already committed. And then a sea of vans drove up.
After everyone unloaded and made their way inside the barn, we counted a whopping 28 paralysis survivors!! With levels of injury and function ranging from C1 all the way down to T12, we had folks from all rolls of life. After adding up the years of paralysis experience represented within the group, it came to 345 years!! (If lived consecutively, that would put us all the way back to 1669 A.D.; the year Louis XIV decided to renovate a small hunting lodge just outside Paris in Versailles.) Check us out!
But as impressive as that total is, it’s what you don’t see in this picture that took the event to another level; the 40+ supporters in attendance – a mixed group of spouses, parents, siblings and children – whose lives have also been affected by a loved one’s paralysis. Factor in their collective experience, and you are looking at close to 1000 years of perspective, strength and hope dispersed throughout the room.
With breakout meetings for both Survivors and Supporters, attendees were given a safe space to share what was truly on their hearts and minds. Judging by the noise level in the barn alone, this was a great first step toward our goal of creating a thriving community where fellowship and shared experience leads to tangible solutions to help us Do Life in the Here and Now!
Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive, and it sounds like a lot of meaningful connections were made. All in all, we are proud to call this first meet up a success! We have learned a ton and will incorporate that knowledge as we plan another event for later this summer, which includes actively searching for bigger venues to accommodate this community as it continues to grow.
We would like to say a huge thank you to every paralysis Survivor and Supporter for making this first of many Here and Now Project events such a memorable experience! Stay tuned for more!