Hope Happens Here: Scott Remington

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on June 19, 2020 # Hope Happens Here: 25 Stories

Scott Remington made the choice to live with hope just a few months after his spine was crushed in a logging accident that paralyzed him from the waist down.

The moment occurred not overlooking the scenic high peaks surrounding Remington's home in the Adirondack Mountains but along a highway as he and his sister drove toward a local hospital for another round of physical therapy. The pain from his injuries—including a broken neck, sternum, and nearly every rib–remained, along with a growing sense of despair about the lack of treatments for spinal cord injuries.

As the road sped by, Remington realized he couldn't wait for a cure to come to him; he wanted to help find one.Scott Remington and children

"'I told my sister I didn't want to live the rest of my life like this," he says. "And she said, 'Ok, let's do something about it.'"

The first Scott Remington Family & Close Friends Annual Spinal Cord Research Benefit was held at Jimbo's Club at the Point in Brant Lake, N.Y, on February 27, 2000, less than a year after Remington's accident. Despite the cold winter night, hundreds of people showed up, friends and strangers alike, raising more than $21,000 for the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation.

"That benefit helped me heal," Remington says. "Seeing all those people come out, wanting to donate their money to the cause, that was something."

And it was just the beginning. Since then, the annual event has raised more than $725,000 for the Reeve Foundation and become part of the fabric of this upstate hamlet whose population hovers around 1,000 people.

It is a homespun and deeply personal affair. Remington's family and friends spend much of each year planning the details and, on the night of, even help serve the food to keep costs low and ensure as much money as possible goes to the foundation.

The community responds in kind, with hundreds of businesses and citizens across the region donating raffle prizes ranging from chainsaws and canoes to hand-crafted cornhole sets and trips to Florida. For the past couple of years, even the winning team of the outhouse races at the local winter carnival has donated its prize money to the fundraiser.

Alexandra Reeve Givens, vice-chair of the Reeve Foundation's board of directors, attended the 20th anniversary benefit in 2019 and was struck by the depth of the community's response.

"It’s a modern-day version of a barn raising,” she says. “It's one thing to see a celebration like this the year after somebody is injured, but it’s a very different thing two decades later. It really is remarkable. The way the community has taken this cause to heart is a testament to the efforts of Scott and his family and friends.”

Though Remington and his family were among the earliest supporters of the Reeve Foundation’s mission targeting treatment and cures for spinal cord injuries, Givens said his impact goes far beyond simply fundraising.

“He is such a thoughtful mentor and ready source of advice for people navigating new injuries,” she says. “And the way he has formed this really beautiful and powerful network around the benefit, where people living with spinal cord injuries can celebrate their survival and successes, is inspiring.”

Friends of friends and local hospital staffers know they can send newly injured patients Remington’s way for support and advice on everything from how to keep mowing the lawn to the best layout for a wheelchair-friendly bathroom. And he makes it a point to attend fundraisers for strangers who’ve sustained spinal cord injuries, quietly letting them know he's there if they ever want to talk.

“When all this first happens, it’s overwhelming,” Remington says. “And there's a lot of stuff that goes along with being paralyzed that can get you frustrated. I tell people, ‘Are you going to fall out of the wheelchair once in a while? Yeah, you are, but you just have to learn to get back up.’”

In 2004, Reeve, who recorded videos for the benefit in its early years, invited Remington and family members to his home in Bedford, N.Y. Meeting Reeve —who gently bumped Remington’s wheelchair to put him at ease when he first arrived–made Remington even more determined to make a difference.

“He said we were the voice of the north and to keep it up,” Remington recalls. “The inspiration he gave me that day is still some of the driving force that keeps me pushing forward to help other people and raise money for a cure for spinal cord injury.”

Remington’s decision to believe a cure was possible has made a difference in the lives of countless people living with paralysis; the money raised in his small town has rippled out in a big way, helping accelerate and expand the scope of spinal cord injury research around the world.

And he’s not done yet. These days, Remington is busy advocating for more access in the Adirondack Park for those with disabilities and—of course–planning next year’s benefit, scheduled for March 20, 2021.

"We’re just going to keep raising money, and hopefully, they’ll find a cure, sooner rather than later.”