Meet Peer Mentor TJ Griffin

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on July 01, 2015 # PFSP

My name is TJ Griffin, and I am the peer mentor program coordinator for the Reeve Foundation Peer & Family Support Program. When I was a senior at Trinity high school, I broke my neck playing high school football. Growing up in a suburb of Dallas/Fort Worth football was everything, so I guess you could say I went out in style.

After I was paralyzed, I knew there was a long road ahead of me. I went to one of the top rehabilitation centers at the time called Dallas Rehabilitation Institute. Back then they had you stay in rehab longer after your initial accident then they do now. This actually ended up benefitting me multiple ways in the long run. During my six month stay at DRI, all I wanted at the time was to go back home and to school as soon as possible. Looking back on it now the extended stay definitely helped me not only physically, but also emotionally to take on my new challenge of living life as a quadriplegic.

While in rehab I met with a tutor after physical therapy which helped me graduate high school on time, after which I went straight to college. It was a great place for me to rebuild my confidence and find my sense of humor again after my accident. While I was attending college, I started speaking at elementary schools, church groups, and other organizations about my accident. I was doing so many speeches that I was actually making a little money during college, (when I say a little money, I mean a little.) I talked to these groups about having a positive attitude, setting goals, and the importance of talking to someone when you have a problem. Doing these talks made me to realize that my major in college should be speech communication. There's nothing more rewarding than having a parent tell you that "since my child heard you speak his behavior and his attitude has completely change for the better."

After college I went on to work at IBM for 11 years. Being completely honest, it was not my dream job as I am not a technology guy but more how do you say, gifted, with the art of gab. As some of my close friends and family say, I should've had a degree in BS. While I was working at IBM, I was also on the board of a gym called the Neuro Fitness Foundation, a nonprofit gym for people with disabilities. They have almost as much equipment as major rehabs and it's free of charge for people with a disability. Don't get NFF confused with a rehab, as it is specifically a gym, I make sure the music is playing and members are enjoying themselves while they work out. Being on the board and now serving as president for the last five years has been one of the most rewarding things I've done. I have seen what NFF does for people not only physically but also emotionally.

I've always wanted to give back to people and help them realize just because they're in a wheelchair doesn't mean they can't still live their life. The way I see it the only thing different about me is I sit down and get better parking spaces. So when I had the opportunity to work for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation in 2013 I was ecstatic. I can say without a doubt, working as a peer mentor coordinator and helping other people realize their full potential has been the most rewarding thing I've done in my life. Christopher Reeve changed so many people's lives for the better. Just being part of his foundation and knowing that I can help people inspires me to try to live my life to the fullest. I really truly feel that being a peer mentor is letting people understand life is not over; it's still there for the taking. You just have to have the courage to reach out and grab it.

TJ Griffin

Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation

Peer Mentor Program Coordinator

817-360-6869

tjgriffin@christopherreeve.org