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PT students combine passion with AWE fundraisings

by Bilan Williams
Public Relations

If you have to use a wheelchair to get around, what is second nature to others becomes quite a feat. It is even more remarkable to have to readjust the way you get around if you have a spinal cord injury after years of walking.

PT students Bethany Clark, from left, Jill Galan, Jess House and Sarah Cline planned Shots With A Spin fundraiser, which raised more than $5,500.

Jessica House, president of the Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) class of 2013, said she got to see that first- hand working with the nonprofit group Achieving Wheelchair Equality (AWE). They hosted an Adaptive Water Sports clinic at Lion's Beach, located in Moncks Corner on the shore of Lake Moultrie, June 9. Thirty-two DPT students attended the clinic and worked with 12 participants who were taught how to sit ski, which allows participants to water ski from a sitting position, paddle kayaks and ride jet skis. The remaining 31 students participated in the clinic July 21.

Established in 1991 to help facilitate the lives of wheelchair users, AWE provides services for those living with spinal cord injuries. Physical therapy students engage in a wide variety of activities with AWE. House, from Missoula, Mont., said that she is amazed by the participants.

Members of the Charleston Fire Department compete in the wheelchair basketball tournament at the Shots With a Spin fundraiser.

"I admire their motivation and inability to quit. Each of them have had to re-learn how to do things that are second nature to most of us and have to learn how to do things in a different way than they did before their injury. It can't be easy, but you never hear any of them complain."

House said it was rewarding to help people who never thought they could water ski have the chance to do that. "It's awesome to give back and help them do something a little more outside of the box of what normal rehabilitation would be."

Physical therapist Sara Kraft, an assistant DPT professor in the College of Health Professions, is enthralled with the achievements of her students. "The third-year PT students have been doing amazing things. For example, they've hosted an All Sports Day, which included basketball, football, racing, tennis and softball."

Bethany Clark, a DPT student from Aiken, said it was probably one of the most eye-opening events she has ever attended of any population with disabilities. "I think I was most impressed by the courage the participants showed by getting up on the skis. They were fearless. I couldn't even be convinced to try."

Shots With a Spin
Most amazingly, Clark and House, along with fellow students Jill Galan and Sarah Cline, hosted a fundraiser featuring a wheelchair basketball tournament called Shots With a Spin in order to raise money for AWE.

Shots With a Spin, held June 16 at The Citadel, included teams from the Charleston Battery, Charleston Outlaw Rugby, the Navy, the Charleston Fire Department, the MUSC College Health of Professions C research team, MUSC PT classes, and an MUSC rehabilitative team. In addition to the tournament, they also had a silent auction, drawings, and a children's carnival.

The event raised more than $5,500 and Kraft was happy with the success of her students. "It took about a year and a half to organize this event. We had vendors from several different places set up booths with wheelchair obstacle courses, adaptive hunting gear, adaptive car shows, information and more. It was a great fundraiser and way to raise awareness."

House called the event one of the most enjoyable things she's ever done. "It was challenging and a lot of hard work helping to organize the event, but extremely worthwhile. It was pretty neat to see the community rally around the organization to play some basketball."

According to Cline, when the passion to help people is combined with what students learn in school, the results are incredible for everyone involved. "These events make coming to school every day and working hard worth it."

Galan was also satisfied with the results of their hard work, saying that it was worth every second. "I truly enjoyed being a part of the Shots With a Spin basketball tournament. I learned a lot about those who use wheelchairs as well as a lot about myself. The people involved with AWE are an inspiration."

The Coursework
Participants with AWE enjoy the collaboration with the DPT students. Kraft said that their demeanor toward the students is amazing. Kraft said they are very appreciative of the students and think highly of them. "They think the students walk on water."

According to Clark, the feeling is mutual. One participant, Alex Jackson, helped put together the Shots With a Spin tournament and left a big impression on several DPT students.

Alex Jackson helped plan Shots With A Spin and is an employee with SPAWAR in Charleston. Jackson also writes a blog for the S.C. Spinal Cord Injury Association. Visit

"He suffered his injury when he was 9-months old—unfortunately a C5-C6 injury. Where some people may choose to use this as an excuse not to live up to their potential, Alex is one amazing guy," Clark said.

A 2010 College of Charleston graduate, Jackson not only has hosted his own radio show for four years, but also has a blog for the S.C. Spinal Cord Injury Association called 'Tuesday Talk With Alex.' Clark called him a great role model for anyone.

Cline said she admires their attitudes despite the fact that they had no choice in their current situations. "Each individual has put an unimaginable amount of work towards becoming the amazing person they are today."
AWE and its participants have not only made the PT students feel welcomed, but they have made their experience as MUSC students worthwhile. Clark feels like working with AWE is one of many reasons she has found her tenure as a student at MUSC enjoyable.

"Our professors go out of their way to get us the information we need. Dr. Kraft puts a ton of time into setting up activities for our class to participate in. These AWE activities complimented our coursework and they are just another example of how great our professors are. I cannot say enough positive things about MUSC's DPT program."

House feels the same way.

"Being very active and accident prone growing up, I was in and out of physical therapy for injuries and I always thought the PTs looked like they were having fun. In talking to friends in other PT programs, I think I am being afforded opportunities that others don't get. I think MUSC does an outstanding job of preparing us to be excellent clinicians that really will make a difference in lives of our patients."


Friday, July 27, 2012

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