SCI Community Magazine

Winter 2020

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Opening Notes: What makes a powerful partnership?

Stuart Howe
Dr. Stuart Howe | CEO, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

As we prepare to wrap up another fiscal year on March 31, we take stock of our strength as an organization.

We look at what factors were at play in our successes and challenges: how our services and programs met the needs of our community; how much we raised and how effectively we used government funding and donation income; how much positive policy change we influenced at the municipal, provincial and federal level; how committed, skilled and satisfied our staff and volunteers are; how efficient our systems and processes are; and just who makes up the community we so often refer to and rely on.

This year, what keeps coming up for me is partnership. In so many ways, as we get set to celebrate 75 years of SCI service, support and advocacy in Ontario, powerful partnerships emerge as an ongoing, strengthening force. From the very beginning, our founders forged strong and creative partnerships to raise awareness of the need for improved services for people with spinal cord injury. These partnerships built more than awareness; they built Canada’s first SCI rehab centre, new government policy, user-centred mobility devices, improved medical care, increased inclusion and accessibility. In short, their multi-faceted partnerships raised the funds and other resources they needed to revolutionalize life for people with SCI.

This important story – and reliance on partnership and funding – continues in 2020. Though massive change has occurred since 1945, we are at a critical crossroads in Ontario. In almost every area of life, improvements can and must be made to reduce challenges faced by people with SCI and their families: access to affordable, reliable and local health care, medical supplies, mobility equipment, housing and employment within an accessible environment.

At a recent SCIO event, Danielle Kane, a young woman who was shot on Toronto’s Danforth Avenue in the summer of 2018, shared a vital message with the audience of Ontario MPPs about life after rehab: “Despite all the assistance I received, they did not prepare me for the world outside the rehab centre, where there is a never-ending set of challenges for someone like me.” After sustaining an SCI and working so hard toward independence, Danielle could not return to her basement apartment and found there was not a single wheelchair accessible apartment available in Toronto.

Danielle’s situation, unfortunately, is not uncommon. Seventy-five years after revolutionizing life for people with SCI, we have to do it again. People who sustain an SCI in this province should never be faced with additional, solvable struggles. Which is where our partners come in. Every single member of our community – our clients, corporate partners, health care professionals, volunteers, family members, staff, researchers – is a partner in this urgent and important goal. Let’s move forward together to finally achieve the equality and inclusivity our founders envisioned all those years ago.

Dr. Stuart Howe | Winter 2020

CEO, Spinal Cord Injury Ontario

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