English |Español | Chinese | Hindi | Vietnamese | Korean | Japanese |Tagalog | Like us on Facebook Follow us on Twitter YouTube Google+ LinkedIn Foursquare Pinterest Follow Reeve on Instagram

Spinal Cord Injury Paralysis Resource Center

[+] Text[-] Text             print

Not Just a Day at the Races

Donna Lowich's husband and son, Walter and Jeffery

Jeffery and a jockey at the track.

By Donna Lowich

"I think I'll take Jeffrey to the track tomorrow," my husband, Walter, decided on a Friday in July 1986.

Decisions, big and small, are made every day. We make numerous ones for ourselves all the time, and as parents, we make decisions continually for our children, as well. For the most part, these decisions relate to what they will wear, what they will eat, what they will do that day. On rare occasions, we can make decisions regarding what they will do for the rest of their lives, and will be the cornerstone of that relationship as parent and child.

Difficult time
One such example is the relationship between my son, Jeff and his dad. I was recovering from two spinal cord surgeries, and undergoing intensive physical therapy at home, after being in the hospital and rehab center for seven months. It was a difficult time for all of us, but especially for Jeffrey, who was almost five years old at the time.

The little boy who sang, ‘Mommy's coming home today' from the moment he woke up on my discharge day until I was back in my home that day in June, had endured many disappointments during the past seven months. My release date kept changing as I continued making progress in therapy. Finally, my day to leave had arrived, and we all looked forward to my return home, hoping and believing that once I was home, things would be as they once were. Unfortunately, things were very different.

It was to ease the difficulty of the situation, and to get Jeffrey to focus on happier thoughts that Walter offered to take Jeffrey to the racetrack for the day. They had shared some difficult moments while I was hospitalized, especially when they were both sick with the flu, yet each managed to care for the other. Now it was time to share some happy moments together.

"He'll love to see the horses, and the jockeys' silks are so colorful," Walter assured me. "We'll spend a few hours there and come home."

I agreed, thinking it would be great for them to enjoy a day at the races with each other.

The track is about an hour away, so the day would be eventful for Jeff, but just how eventful we wouldn't know for some time, but we would certainly find out!

Its time for the track
"Ready to go, Bud?" Walter called upstairs to Jeff, as they prepared to leave.

Jeff came running down the stairs, excitement on his face. He looked at me, and stopped short, a somber look replacing his smile. "But, Mommy, what about you?"

"Oh, Jeffrey, don't worry about me, I have my therapists coming today, and I need to do my exercises with them so that I can get better. You go with Daddy and have a wonderful day at the track. I'll be here when you get home, and you can tell me all about it, OK?

He looked at me with tear-filled eyes, searching my face to see if it was really what I wanted.

"OK, Mommy." He hugged me, and added, "I love you."

"I love you, too." I kissed him gently as my own eyes welled up. "Now go! And have a great day!" We hugged again, he rested his head on my shoulder, and then he kissed me goodbye.

Great races with Jeff
When they arrived home late in the afternoon, both Walter and Jeffrey were grinning from ear to ear. I smiled back. "Did you guys have a good time?"

"Good? It was GREAT!" Jeffrey exclaimed, his chocolate-brown eyes shining brightly with excitement. "We were at the finish line and we saw the horses up close for all the races!"

"Wow, Jeff! I'm glad you had such a good time! What did you like best? The jockeys? The bugler?"

"I liked seeing the horses run, and guessing which ones would win. It was great!" He paused. "I helped Dad pick out the winners!"

I looked at Walter, who was nodding his head in agreement, "We spent time at the paddock area, and then we chose the horses we thought would win. Then Jeff ran all the way back to the finish line to wait for the race!"

He shook his head in amazement. "I was wrong—he was not interested in the jockeys or the silks. He went right for the finish line. And, he did help me pick who the winners were. Didn't you, Bud?"

Jeff nodded his head vigorously in agreement. "Thanks, Daddy, " he said. "I had a great time today!"

"So did I, Jeff. So did I." He embraced him and said, "I'm glad I could do it for you, Bud."

The winner is...
That was just the first of many trips my two guys took to the track together. After a few visits, it became apparent that Jeffrey had a natural ability to pick out the winners; this was becoming more evident as time went on. Before long, it was Walter who was asking Jeffrey in earnest for help in choosing each race's winner. Before the year was up, other people sitting nearby were listening to what Jeffrey was saying.

That decision, that momentous decision, led Jeff to focus on racing all during his growing-up years. He immersed himself so much into his love of horses and racing, that when given the assignment in kindergarten to draw a picture with a question mark as the starting point, Jeffrey drew a race horse named Ferdinand, whose tail was composed of the required question mark.

The years passed, and Jeffrey and Walter bonded through their trips to baseball games, museums, and class trips. Baseball games, especially the ones in which Jeffrey played, remained a favorite pastime. But, still, nothing could beat a day at the track which only cemented further a close relationship between this father and his son, a closeness that developed partly as a result of each of them taking care of the other during my hospitalization.

Surprise dad!
The spring after his freshman year at college, Jeffrey landed a job as a security guard at the track. He worked hard and scrupulously saved his salary. On Father's Day, Jeffrey handed Walter a package.

Upon opening the box, Walter pulled out a beautiful clock radio with a CD player, a top-of-the line product, something Jeff knew his Dad wanted, but would never buy for himself.

"Jeff! This is great!" Walter enthused as he hugged him. "Thank you so much, Bud!"

Jeff looked at his dad and replied, "You're welcome!" and then, quietly he whispered, "I'm glad I could do it for you." And he hugged Walter back.

Once Jeff graduated from college with a degree in business administration, he was accepted into an equine management program, where he received a second bachelor's degree. He is now employed as a manager at the very same track he first visited more than twenty years ago.

Sometimes, a day at the races is more than just a day at the races.

The ArcThe Arc is the world’s largest community based organization of and for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. It provides an array of services and support for families and individuals and includes over 140,000 members affiliated through more than 850 state and local chapters across the nation. The Arc is devoted to promoting and improving supports and services for all people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Alliance for Parent CentersThe Technical Assistance ALLIANCE for Parent Centers (the ALLIANCE) is an innovative partnership of one national and six regional parent technical assistance centers, each funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP). These seven projects comprise a unified technical assistance system for the purpose of developing, assisting, and coordinating the over 100 Parent Training and Information Centers (PTIs) and Community Parent Resource Centers (CPRCs) under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. The national and regional parent technical assistance centers work to strengthen the connections to the larger OSEP Technical Assistance and Dissemination Network and fortify partnerships between Parent Centers and education systems at local, state, and national levels.

Ability OnLineA computer friendship network where children and youth with disabilities or chronic illnesses connect to each other as well as to friends, family members, caregivers and supporters.

All Kids Can!A disabilities awareness program that helps students of all ages learn attitudes of acceptance, dignity and respect, especially toward those with disabilities.

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Pediatric SCI (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Religion and People with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Children with Disabilities (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Children's and Teen Books (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Parenting with a Disability (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on Mindfullness (PDF)

A Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF) - EnglishA Reeve Foundation Fact Sheet on New Injury Top 10 Questions (PDF) - Spanish

The American Camping AssociationAccredits camping facilities, including dozens across the U.S. that cater to kids with paralysis, to assure a safe and healthy experience. Click above to locate a camp.

Council for Exceptional ChildrenThe Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest international professional organization dedicated to improving the educational success of individuals with disabilities and/or gifts and talents. CEC advocates for appropriate governmental policies, sets professional standards, provides professional development, advocates for individuals with exceptionalities, and helps professionals obtain conditions and resources necessary for effective professional practice.

Camp Ronald McDonaldA fully accessible residential camp for kids with special needs located in the high Sierra.

Children With DisabilitiesOffers information about advocacy, education, employment, health, housing, recreation, technical assistance, and transportation covering a broad array of developmental, physical, and emotional disabilities.

The Council for Exceptional ChildrenDedicated to improving educational outcomes for individuals with exceptionalities, students with disabilities, and/or the gifted.

Children's Neurobiological SolutionsChildren's Neurobiological Solutions, Inc. (CNS) is a national, non-profit organization supporting collaborative research to advance treatments and therapies for children with neurodevelopmental abnormalities, birth injuries to the nervous system, and related neurological problems. CNS offers families and health care providers information and educational resources.

Exceptional ParentThe magazine often runs a column on dentistry for people with disabilities.

DREAMMS for KidsDevelopmental Research for the Effective Advancement of Memory and Motor Skills specializes in assistive technology for students and youth with special needs in schools, homes, and the community.

Easter SealsEaster Seals provides exceptional services, education, outreach, and advocacy so that people living with autism and other disabilities can live, learn, work and play in our communities.

Education Resources Information Center (ERIC)ERIC - the Education Resources Information Center - is an online digital library of education research and information. ERIC is sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) of the U.S. Department of Education. ERIC provides ready access to education literature to support the use of educational research and information to improve practice in learning, teaching, educational decision-making, and research.

Family Voices Family Voices Information and Publications, and links to external resources can be located in a number of different ways. All of our materials are categorized by topic (format and audience coming soon) on the publications page. You may also use the "Search FV" Tool in the left column to find materials by keyword. Some materials are available for download, some for viewing online, and others are available by hardcopy only from our catalog. State specific information may be found by contacting a Family Voices State Network Member. Please contact the kidshealth@familyvoices.org if you require any assistance.

The Fathers NetworkSupports men who have children with special needs through support and mentoring programs, technical assistance, national conferences and information resources.

Internet Resources for Special ChildrenProvides information to parents, family members, caregivers, friends, educators, and medical professionals who provide for children with disabilities and other health related disorders.

Getting Benefits for KidsThis link illustrates the kinds of Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits a child with a disability might be eligible for and explains how we evaluate disability claims for children.

Indian Health ServiceU.S. Dept. of Health & Human Services.

Island Dolphin CareAllows children to swim and play with dolphins.

Family Center on technology and DisabilityThe Family Center is a resource designed to support organizations and programs that work with families of children and youth with disabilities. We offer a range of information and services on the subject of assistive technologies. Whether you're an organization, a parent, an educator, or an interested friend, we hope you'll find information that supports you in your efforts to bring the highest quality education to children with disabilities.

Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery at the University of LouisvilleThe Kosair Charities Center for Pediatric NeuroRecovery provides activity-based therapies to promote recovery from neurologic injury in children; conducts research to enhance recovery; and trains families, practitioners and scientists to maximize recovery and improve the quality of life for children and their families. In short, we are here to help kids kick paralysis and through science have every reason to hope.

KidsComSite has plenty of games, message boards, kids chat, video game cheats, contests and prizes.

KidsHealthOffers reliable health information about children from before birth through adolescence, with separate areas for kids, teens, and parents.

Kids MoveDevoted to pediatric movement disorders with up-to-date information about the recognition, assessment, treatment, and support.

National information Clearinghouse for Children and Youth with Disabilities INICHCY) NICHCY is very pleased to offer you a wealth of information on disabilities! NICHCY stands for the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center (NECTAC) Our mission: To strengthen service systems to ensure that children with disabilities (birth through 5 years) and their families receive and benefit from high quality, culturally appropriate and family-centered supports and services.

National Information Center for Children and Youth with Disabilities (NICHCY)Provides information on disabilities and disability-related issues for families, educators, and other professionals; special focus is children and youth (birth to age 22).

National Resource Center for Parents with DisabilitiesA deep resource on childbirth and parenting, adaptive equipment for childcare, networking and support groups

The Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative ServicesThe Office of Special Education and Rehabilitative Services (OSERS) is committed to improving results and outcomes for people with disabilities of all ages.

Our-KidsAn online family of parents, caregivers and others working with children with physical and/or mental disabilities.

Parents Helping Parents (PHP) Parents Helping Parents (PHP) provides lifetime guidance, supports and services to families of children with any special need and the professionals who serve them.Parents Helping Parents (PHP) provides lifetime guidance, supports and services to families of children with any special need and the professionals who serve them.

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights (PACER) The mission of PACER Center (Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights) is to expand opportunities and enhance the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents.

Parenting with Disabilities OnlineProvides information, support and resources to parents with disabilities.

Parents On WheelsSite is dedicated to parents who use wheelchairs.

Parents with Disabilities OnlineProvide information and resources to parents with disabilities.

The Sibling Support Project The Sibling Support Project is a national effort dedicated to the life-long concerns of brothers and sisters of people who have special health, developmental, or mental health concerns.

Shriners Hospitals Children up to the age of 18 with orthopaedic conditions, burns, spinal cord injuries and cleft lip and palate are eligible for admission and receive all care in a family-centered environment at no charge – regardless of financial need.

Starlight Foundation for ChildrenDevelops multi-media and technology projects that empower seriously ill children to deal with the medical and emotional challenges they face on a daily basis.

The Shriners HospitalsThe Shriners have three facilities in the U.S. to provide expert, no-cost care to children under 18 with spinal cord injuries.

State Respite CoalitionsThe Chapel Hill Training-Outreach Project was established in 1969 with funding from the Federal government as part of our nation's earliest attempts to provide educational services to young children with disabilities.

Through the Looking GlassThe purpose of the National Parent-to-Parent Network at Through the Looking Glass is to connect parents, as well as those who are considering becoming parents, with others who may have shared similar experiences or faced common barriers as parents with disabilities.

U Can DoA site that emphasizes what you can do, not what you can’t. Promotes ‘ability awareness’ to help kids focus on what is possible, regardless of their challenges.

YahooligansBig list of links for all sorts of kids’ sites, including tons of places to go for games, sports, TV and movie stuff.

Paralysis Resource Center The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm ET. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

Reeve Foundation Online Paralysis Community Connecting people living with paralysis, families, friends and caregivers so we can share support, experience, knowledge, and hope.

Quality of Life Grants DatabaseFind resources within the PRC Quality of Life Grants Database. Search by Zip Code, State or an Entire Category.

Library Books and VideosFind resources within the PRC library catalog.

  • Email our Paralysis Information Specialists
  • Call our Paralysis Information Specialists
  • Call our Paralysis Information Specialists
  • Newly paralyzed or spinal cord injured? Start here.
Get your free copy of the Paralysis Resource Guide
Paralysis Resource Guide

This FREE 442 page book is a comprehensive information tool for individuals living with paralysis and for their caregivers. Request or download your copy now!

Find Resources in Your Area

Check out programs in your area on our one-of-a kind online searchable Quality of Life program database. You can search by location or topic. GO


The Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center Information Specialists are reachable business weekdays, Monday through Friday, toll-free at 800-539-7309 from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. International callers use 973-467-8270. You may also schedule a call or send a message online.

This project was supported, in part by grant number 90PR3002, from the U.S. Administration for Community Living, Department of Health and Human Services, Washington, D.C. 20201. Grantees undertaking projects under government sponsorship areencouraged to express freely their findings and conclusions. Points of view or opinions do not, therefore, necessarily represent official Administration for Community Living policy.