Sway 2019 fundraiser to highlight how Reeve helps in our community

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on August 19, 2019 # News, Events

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation focuses on providing a roadmap of resources for individuals living with paralysis. The Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) answers calls and shares vital information and resources to those who have been diagnosed with paralysis. Within the PRC are the staff and volunteers peer mentors that reach out to families--one example is our Director of Public Impact, Alan T. Brown, who has given one-on-one support to multiple individuals who are newly injured like Derek Avilez.

Alan originally met Derek, a firefighter paramedic, a few months prior to his injury. Alan needed emergency help while dealing with the secondary conditions related to his own spinal cord injury he sustained nearly three decades. When the stretcher was not accessible for Alan to transfer, Derek lifted him and got him into the ambulance and to the hospital so he could receive the proper treatment for his condition. Then in 2011, Derek sustained a C2 injury while at the beach with his family, leaving him a high-level quadriplegic.

“Growing up in South Florida, I was always a big skimboarder. I was skimboarding on the beach here in Hollywood, and I would throw the board, catch a wave and get a lot of fun flips and backflips. One wave hit me causing me to come straight down on my head. My wife and my three kids were with me and she found me floating and flipped me over and I was blue,” Derek explained.

Derek was immediately rushed to the hospital where he spent the next six months in recovery and rehabilitation, with the support of the fire bureau behind him. Derek’s colleague, Dan Fitzgerald, head of the fire union, called Alan to inform him of Derek’s injury, and Alan immediately went to help. Now Derek is back on the force working as a dispatcher, and teaming up with Alan to help promote his yearly event, Sway, which raises funds for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

“This is what the PRC does, it acts as the first line of help for individuals who have sustained injuries, similar to what Derek has done as a first responder,” said Alan. “We want this year’s event at Sway to carry on the message of people helping people, and how we can create something good out of a bad situation.”

With the support of Derek and his fire bureau, the annual Sway event will highlight the importance of supporting organizations like the Reeve Foundation, and continually show how its resources are helping those in the paralysis community.

“When I was first injured, Alan came to me and reminded me of how I had helped him, telling the whole story about me carrying him out of his house, and how he wanted to return the favor when I needed help the most. It was encouraging to know he was there to help and answer questions. He was adamant about getting me down to Jackson Memorial Hospital and helping me get off my ventilator. It was a huge relief to have his knowledge in a time where my world was upside down,” said Derek “I am happy to help Alan out any way I can and get the same support behind him and others who live with our injury.”

To learn more about Sway, or to attend, visit our events page.

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.