Quality of Life Grants Spotlight: Miami Project to Cure Paralysis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the Reeve Foundation’s National Paralysis Resource Center created a special grants category (COVID-19: Addressing Social Isolation) for non-profit organizations to address social isolation by providing programs and projects to support the physical and mental health of people living with paralysis.

 Miami Project

Exercising and mindfulness are vital to everyone’s well-being, especially if a person is living with a disability such as a spinal cord injury (SCI). Sometimes, finding ways to connect with others socially, while maintaining mind and body health can be difficult.

When COVID-19 social isolation regulations were enacted, many people in the disability community were cut off from family, friends, and places they once had access to.

In 2001, The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis (MPCP) created the "The Lifestyle Center at Jackson Health System" program at the Lynn Rehabilitation Center. The Center serves as a resource for exercise, nutrition counseling, and community integration.

At the start of the pandemic, the MPCP’s creators, Drs. Nash and Gant saw how the social isolation regulations affected their program participants. The Project identified four needed areas: exercise, nutrition, mindfulness, and peer support. With the help of a $44,000 grant from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, the program became accessible remotely.

The goals of the program were:

  • To develop a Zoom-based exercise program that is accessible to everyone
  • Host mindfulness sessions to ease feelings of anxiety and isolation

The program also includes a COVID Corner on the MPCP website. The COVID Corner supplies up-to-date risk assessments for COVID-19 in the disability community.

The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis’s Lifestyle Center has used the grant money to build on and expand the Program’s offerings. The funding from the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation allowed the Miami Project to expand existing online offerings that address the needs of their participants and their caregivers. Sessions included:

  • Peer support groups
  • Downloadable information guides
  • Webpages that give COVID-19-related information
  • Access to a “Loaner Closet” – a program that allows participants to try different physical activities
  • A guide to learning how to reintegrate into the community once the COVID-19 social isolation restrictions were removed

The Miami Project also offered students with or without disabilities internships to engage and lead program participants in exercise, nutrition, and mindfulness activities.

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The participants have stated that they are “Grateful to remain connected to a program focused on their activity, health, and life satisfaction.” Others shared, “The program was the only way they remained linked to their peers.” Through the grant, the Miami Project increased community interaction by 35.3% between January 2021 and May 2021.

In addition, the Project provides reliable, disability-specific information sources, inspirational messages, consumer testimonials, and peer suggestions to cope with the effects of COVID-19 regulations. Their website has relevant information about how vaccines work, the side effects for people with SCI, and a guide to where and how to schedule an appointment for a vaccine or booster shot. Furthermore, the Miami Project encouraged those in the SCI or disability community to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

The Miami Project plans to continue its’ online programming for participants and caregivers by reviewing and assessing its’ current programming through feedback, program review and identifying key areas of concern. Ultimately, the goal is to be a community resource, providing much needed educational resources and tools.

To learn more about the Reeve Foundation’s Quality of Life Grants Program, please see www.ChristopherReeve.org/QOL.

Christina Sisti, DPS, MPH, MS, is a bioethicist and health care policy advocate. She works to create awareness and improve healthcare policy for those with long-term health issues.

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.

This publication was 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 $160,000 with 100% 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.