Sabrina's Adaptive Beach Days - Turning Dreams into Action

Posted by Reeve Staff in Life After Paralysis on February 03, 2022 # Lifestyle

By guest blogger Ali Ingersoll

Ali and Sabrina at the Adaptive Beach DayWe think with ideas, not information, but turning an idea into an actionable reality is quite another one in and of itself. Sabrina Cohen, injured at 14 years old when a driver hit her car speeding at over 90 miles an hour, leaving her a C3-5 quadriplegic, did not let that stop her from becoming a successful real estate agent with Coldwell Banker focusing on accessibility and universal design in addition to being a relentless powerhouse disability advocate.

Sabrina founded the Sabrina Cohen Foundation in 2006, focusing on advancing the field of Regenerative Medicine. After many years in the research field, Sabrina shifted her focus of the foundation to one that now centers on changing the everyday lives of thousands of individuals with disabilities through exercise and community building by creating Sabrina’s Adaptive Beach.

On a beautiful sunny day in Miami Beach, Florida, where Sabrina resides, she simply wanted to get close to the ocean in her power wheelchair. Still, she found herself lacking any type of accessibility for her to dip her toes into the water. She quickly decided to attempt driving her power wheelchair onto the beach only to find herself immediately lodged in the sand. This is where inspiration struck her! It was simply unacceptable that individuals with physical mobility impairments who use a wheelchair could not enjoy the beach as millions of able-bodied individuals are able to.

Sabrina said she made quick work of “approaching the City of Miami Beach with a novel idea to create a full-service accessible beach for people with all mobility challenges. After many years of advocacy, partnering, fundraising, and assembling a specialized team, I launched Sabrina’s Adaptive Beach program.” She purchased water wheelchair beach chairs, dozens of access decks, tents, and other specialized pieces of equipment with a core staff with various specialties to help make what was once an idea of beach accessibility into reality.

Sabrina notes, “Today, we have welcomed over 8,000 participants, family members, caretakers, and friends to our program to successfully and safely get everyone in & out of the ocean.” Sabrina plans have grown this initiative to a twice-monthly pop-up program and are presently working with stakeholders from all over the state to build a one-of-a-kind adaptive fitness and recreation center “so we can expand what we are doing today to providing services 365 days a year for all with indoor & outdoor fitness activities.”

Ali and Sabrina at a restaurant on the waterSabrina is a close personal friend of mine, and personal mentor when I was injured in 2010 in a shallow water diving accident, leaving me a C6 quadriplegic. She invited me to participate in one of her adaptive beach days. It was one of the most exhilarating and progressive initiatives I have participated in in the last 11 years. Not only was I able to enjoy the water, but the community camaraderie surrounding Sabrina’s beach days was undeniable.

An idea is just an idea until it is put into action. This can be extremely challenging, but Sabrina is a trailblazer, plain and simple. For Sabrina, “Obstacles and barriers inspire me to break them down in an effort to provide new experiences and hope for people going through difficult times. I am inspired when I can help empower other people.”

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s Quality of Life Grants helped Sabrina initially turn her concept into reality to support the launch of her Adaptive Beach Day program. Sabrina said that “the Reeve Foundation really understood my concept and what we were all about. I simply applied with a detailed plan, budget, and submitted my proposal.” That’s the beauty of the Reeve Foundation - when it comes to advancing the quality of life for people with disabilities, in particular those with mobility impairments, the foundation will work with you to turn your dreams into reality if you have a plan to move forward.

Ali with a group at the adaptive beachI asked Sabrina what advice she has for new advocates just starting out on their journey to help others and push boundaries. She strongly advises you to “follow your heart, find what you’re passionate about, and just do it. Never let others make you believe you can’t reach your goals. Trust your intuition.”

Well said, Sabrina! Sabrina is one incredibly busy lady, and I was curious as to how she managed her work-life balance. A final note she wanted to convey is that “advocacy work is hard, but I also live life hard because I know when it’s not balanced, it leads to not feeling good. I create limits around everything I do by delegating and sharing responsibilities because the more I care for myself and my body, the more I can give back through my work.”

In essence, surround yourself with a team of like-minded individuals, collaborate, create a plan, and take action!

Ali Ingersoll is a day trader, consultant, disability advocate, writer, blogger, editor, and public speaker. She started her advocacy mission after being repeatedly denied medically necessary equipment by insurance companies over the last ten years. Ali's passion lies in coaching people with disabilities on how to improve their quality of life by teaching them how to self-advocate in order to live a life of independence, dignity, and grace.

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.