Funding Hope

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on November 07, 2022 # News

Colleen CopplaColleen Coppla used to joke that she’s not a real scientist; she just plays one on an academic campus. Now, her campus is the Reeve Foundation headquarters in New Jersey, she’s still enthusiastically playing the role.

Coppla recently joined the Foundation as Chief Development Officer, returning to Reeve after nearly a decade of fundraising in higher education, most recently at Montclair State University, where she was Vice President of development. A self-professed born-and-raised beach-loving Jersey girl, Coppla has more than 20 years of experience in non-profit management and fundraising. She brings a data-driven approach to the Foundation’s development operation, overseeing fundraising initiatives, major gifts, corporate and Foundation relations, Team Reeve, special events, direct mail, planned giving, and donor relations.

We caught up with her on her first day on the new job.

You worked for Reeve some years ago. What was it that attracted you back?

I feel like I'm returning back to a place that I know and care about. It’s exciting to see some of the good work we did nearly a decade ago coming to fruition, and the advances in research and care that have taken place. One of the things I’m most excited about is the ability to be laser-focused on a cause that is having a direct impact on people’s lives, and help make that happen more rapidly.

We all want to drive this work forward in a quicker and more productive way, to be able to have a more immediate impact. Seeing what's taken place over the course of the last decade, I see great potential.

What inspires you about this work?

I've always been intrigued by science. I was an English literature major, so I'm not a scientist, but I joke that I played one on campus over the years.

I had the opportunity to work closely with the Brain Institute at Florida Atlantic University, where we had partnerships with world-class neuroscience institutes such as Scripps and Max Planck. On my first day there, the chief scientific officer explained the research they were doing, using all the scientific lingo. At the end, I looked at him and said: Why does this matter to the world? Why would somebody care?

He switched gears and told me how the research was having a positive impact on kids with autism and older people with depression in real-time. A light bulb came on. I thought: That's why science matters. That’s the translation for the non-scientific world.

That’s why I'm intrigued by this work. It allows you to help people understand the practical applications of the science and why it is so critical to get to those applications.

How do you convince someone who's not personally affected by paralysis that they should care about it?

I think people who care about big world problems, whether medical, societal, environmental, or otherwise, understand that it takes collaboration to solve them. It takes research, data, organizations, and people working together to tackle big societal issues.

Here at Reeve, we have an opportunity to help catalyze real collaboration. We follow the science and look for new opportunities to have a positive impact. We're doing nothing else outside of trying to have an impact on paralysis. We bring people together from science and industry to learn from and work closely with people living with and impacted by paralysis in order to arrive at a place where we can change people’s lives.

It's also worth noting that about two out of every 100 Americans live with paralysis. So even if someone is not impacted now, the likelihood is high that they will be impacted personally in their lives or know someone who becomes paralyzed.

Finally, with science, always expect a surprise. You never know what you're going to discover or learn that's going to have a positive impact on other areas as well.

You’ve talked a lot about the science. Do you see advancing the science of spinal cord injury care and cure as Job No. 1 at Reeve?

Absolutely. Clearly, that's the way toward a cure. The investment that donors make helps us fund the research that is allowing us to see progress toward a cure in real time. It's also how we help people while we're on that quest. It’s how we are helping caregivers and the people living with paralysis every day, including other ailments that impact their daily lives, their health, and their livelihood. Care is part of the cure.

So, it's a combination of research for a cure and how we help people live their best lives now, because now is the time that they're here. Both are important to us. We want folks to understand that's who we are as an organization, and that funding is what allows us to have an impact on both. The investments we've made in science over the long term have helped us get to that place on the cure side as well.

We’re going to continue to learn more and drive forward, to keep having a positive impact for this community. We're in this for the long haul, you know? We’re not giving up until we achieve our mission.

Interviewed and edited by Brenda Patoine

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.