Mentor Spotlight: Kaitlin Munnelly

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on June 29, 2020 # Team Reeve, PFSP, Peer Spotlight

Kaitlin Munnelly had never run a marathon before she joined Team Reeve. After first participating in the AACR Philadelphia Half Marathon in 2016, she has run the TCS New York City Marathon twice in 2017 and 2019 and the Bank of America Chicago Marathon once in 2019, missing 2018 due to a broken foot.

“So far I have raised more than $55,000 for Team Reeve on behalf of my dad,” says Munnelly. “I’ve met so many amazing people through Team Reeve. I plan to run New York again this year.”Munnelly family at the sidelines after a marathon

In August 2015, Munnelly’s dad, Joe, had a stroke, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

“At the time, I had recently graduated from college and I was living in Pittsburgh,” says Munnelly. “I relocated back to Philadelphia to be with my family.”

After a month in the ICU, her father spent six months at the Magee Rehabilitation Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, which is part of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network® (NRN).

Joe participated in the NRN’s Locomotor Training and eventually regained movement in his left arm. Through Magee, the Munnelly family learned more about all the resources the Reeve Foundation has to offer.

“After experiencing this life-changing event with my dad, I wanted to get involved in some way,” says Kaitlin who was 23 at the time of her father’s stroke. “I saw how my dad along with so many others at Magee were suffering, and I wanted to make a difference.”

Initially, Munnelly joined Team Reeve. Two years later, she decided to become a Reeve Foundation Peer & Family Support Program peer mentor.

“The Reeve Foundation really helped my family navigate life with a spinal cord injury,” says Munnelly. “I was excited to be able to use my experience to help others. It was really scary when we were first dealing with my dad’s paralysis. I wanted to help others so they might not feel as overwhelmed.”

Since becoming a peer mentor in 2018, Munnelly has spoken with ten people, mostly women about her age who have a parent with a spinal cord injury.

“I usually start the conversation with a new peer by sharing my story, then they often open up about their experience and ask me questions,” says Munnelly. “I’m happy to help however they see fit.”

Munnelly has spoken with her peers about a full range of topics, from medical and functional challenges to emotional and personal issues. Some have only spoken with her one or two times, while others have kept in touch with her over a longer period.

“It is a tough experience and I’ve really grown from it,” says Munnelly. “I’ve become who I am today because of my family’s experience. Mentoring helps me put a positive twist on it. Although I am helping someone else, it also helps me.”

Munnelly’s two younger brothers have also become involved with the Reeve Foundation by helping their sister with her Team Reeve fundraising and supporting her during her marathons. Next year, the three siblings are considering participating on one of the Reeve Foundation’s Tough Mudder teams.Munnelly Family

“I’m so thankful for how our family has banded together as a result of this experience,” says Munnelly. “We’ve learned to take everything day by day and not get overwhelmed by negative emotions. Our dad has exemplified strength, determination and resilience every step of the way. As cliché as it sounds, you do adjust to your new normal.”

Munnelly continues, “The Reeve Foundation offers wonderful emotional support and a great community for people who I can relate to on a different level about our unique experiences. I love the Reeve Foundation. It is inspirational and awesome.”

For more information on the Peer & Family Support Program and to request a mentor, please go to https://www.christopherreeve.org/get-support/get-a-peer-mentor