Hope Happens Here: Rebecca Koltun

When Rebecca Koltun learned about the ‘Outdoors for Everyone’ initiative, it felt like the ideal opportunity to deepen her involvement with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

Rebecca Koltun with 100K balloons

The ‘Outdoors for Everyone’ initiative strives to ensure the great outdoors and water environments are equally accessible and inclusive for all people – including those living with paralysis, their families, and caregivers.

“I love being outside. I grew up spending summers hiking or at the beach and skiing in the winter,” says Koltun, who also played soccer and basketball. “Through this new initiative, I am excited to build a stronger relationship with the Reeve Foundation. It is a great opportunity to meet more people and see what else I can do.”

In March 2021, Koltun sustained a C1-C2 incomplete spinal cord injury during a ski trip to Vermont with friends. At the time of the accident, the Long Island, NY, native was a senior at Binghamton University studying chemistry and Spanish and interviewing for medical school.

“I spent nine months in the hospital. I call it my gestation period,” says Koltun, now 24 years old. She lost the ability to move or feel below her neck, and she can’t breathe on her own. While in the hospital, Koltun started painting and creating TikToks about her experience. Now, she has nearly 101,000 followers on the platform and another 78,000 on Instagram.

“I hope to use my social media presence to inspire others to get outside,” says Koltun. “I want to show people how accessible many places are and share how much I can do.”

This summer through the ‘Outdoors for Everyone’ initiative, the Foundation is focused on water accessibility, building on its initial efforts in trails and parks, the Foundation aims to connect communities with existing water accessibility programs nationwide. Additionally, it remains dedicated to educating organizations that share its commitment to enhancing quality of life and increasing outdoor accessibility.

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“I can’t wait to get started,” says Koltun. She plans to start by going to Long Island and New York City parks. She will record her experience, from preparing at home to exploring the park, and include a voiceover with details and tips.

“I’ll also explain what it means to me to go outside. I think people may assume that, given my level of injury, I don’t get out much. I’m excited to be able to post what I can do outdoors,” says Koltun. “Although I am starting locally, I hope to go to Yosemite one day.”

In the meantime, Koltun is also busy painting in her art studio, which was part of a major home renovation by George Oliphant and a volunteer team from NBC’s Emmy Award-winning series George to the Rescue in 2022. The project included adding accessible facilities, voice controls, and other supportive features to Koltun’s family home.

In the last two years, Koltun has sold more than 100 paintings locally and on her Made By Mouth Etsy site. She also recently started a part-time job writing and editing video scripts for an online medical education website.

“I hope to inspire others to know that you have the ability to adapt more than you think,” says Koltun. “I have the highest level of injury, but my life’s not over. I couldn’t do what I do without friends and family; it definitely takes a village. The opportunities are out there — and one of the best ways to start is to get outdoors!”

About the Author - Reeve Staff

This blog was written by the Reeve Foundation for educational purposes. For more information please reach out to information@christopherreeve.org

Reeve Staff

The opinions expressed in these blogs are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

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 $10,000,000 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.