Meet Team Kennedy Krieger
Team Kennedy Krieger is a special group of parents, patients, staff and supporters joining together to raise funds for Kennedy Krieger and our International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, while drawing attention to the importance of providing equipment and opportunities for adaptive sports. Individuals with disabilities will race alongside able-bodied athletes on Team Kennedy Krieger. With this charity team, we aim to increase the number of patients who are able to participate in the races each year, open the door to improved physical fitness for those with disabilities, and fund research towards a cure for paralysis.
“Working here shows me that anything is possible when you just believe,” said Erin Michael, patient advocacy manager at Kennedy Krieger’s International Center for Spinal Cord Injuries (ICSCI). “Working here helps me grow….It humbles, inspires and pushes me.”
A positive and hopeful place, everything done at Kennedy Krieger is with a focus on our patients and their best interests. It is our goal to provide them with the best possible care, outcomes and opportunities. “What we do for one another here is incredible,” concluded Erin. “It’s like a giant family here, wanting the best for each other, pushing each other, and the limits.”
That drive is what Erin uses in her position as she seeks to improve the lives of our patients through access. Currently she focuses on educating the public on issues affecting those with permanent and significant disabilities on a daily basis. She wants to improve that knowledge base not only with government officials on a national scale, but with family, friends, and neighbors in her own circles. Thus, persistence, patience and teaching are her objectives.
Erin finds motivation in the achievements of our patients and athletes regardless of whether she’s advocating on Capitol Hill or working in the ICSCI clinic.
“The joy on their face, the audible cheers, the full tooth grins when they accomplish something someone told them they never would, like feeding themselves, moving a finger, cooking Thanksgiving dinner for their family, taking a step, walking a 5K or finishing a marathon, sailing a boat, playing lacrosse again,” explained Erin, “Those moments are the moments I live for, and the memories of those moments push me to work until I find the next moment.”
Robby Beckman became a statistic in the summer of 2003. After diving off a dock, he sustained a spinal cord injury (SCI). Robby wanted to be more than just a number. He embraces not only the mental struggle but the physical challenge, and continues to show us how living with a spinal cord injury can be full of opportunities!
Robby acknowledged that without the in-patient therapy he received 13 years ago and out-patient “tune-ups” he continues to receive at Kennedy Krieger his life would be vastly different. “The therapists at Kennedy Krieger have become family ….They genuinely care about you. I have formed lasting friendships and shared many laughs along the way,” he said.
In May, he was one of the first paralyzed men in the world to sail from Key West to Cuba on an accessible catamaran. As a quadriplegic, he is active on a wheelchair rugby team, which opened the door to competitive adaptive sports for him. He tried hand-cycling last year and was hooked. In 2015 Robby participated in three marathons. This October he plans to tackle a 100-mile ride and two marathons, including the Baltimore Running Festival, all as part of Team Kennedy Krieger.When asked what is next for him, Robby said, “My two and half year old son is what motives me. I want
to be the best hand-cyclist I can be, and ensure that I show my son how goals are achievable even if
others call them crazy.”
“My Mommy Rocks and My Daddy Rolls” is a popular mantra for the Libby Family as racing has become a shared family activity. After Paul fell from a tree stand and sustained a spinal cord injury, he temporarily returned to Maryland from Vermont after making the decision to pursue outpatient rehabilitation services at Kennedy Krieger Institute. During one of his therapy sessions, a hand cycle was wheeled out. After Paul tried it for the first time, a sense of independence and excitement returned.
It was in 2012 that Paul and Tanya first raced together – Paul wheeled through the streets of Frederick, Maryland to cheer Tanya on during her first half marathon, giving her surges of much-needed encouragement. Paul’s first race followed a year later during the 2013 Baltimore Marathon as Tanya cheered on Paul. Then in 2014 the couple raced together for the first time during the Burlington Vermont Marathon. The following year, the couple returned to Baltimore as part of #TeamKennedyKrieger and completed the Baltimore Marathon together – Tanya rocking and Paul rolling.
“At the start line in Baltimore, I had the privilege to see the elite athletes start,” said Tanya. “But even before that, I got to see the heroes start – the hand cyclists! I knew at that moment that racing was going to be in our future.”
#TeamKennedyKrieger continues to positively impact the Libby Family, opening their arms to the family of four.
“First there was the Kennedy Krieger family, and then there was the #TeamKennedyKrieger racing family,” explained Paul.
“Kennedy Krieger means Paul gets the best possible care with innovative and restorative therapies,” said Tanya, “while we continue building relationships with the people who have devoted their lives to better ours. More than ‘team,’ #TeamKennedyKrieger means ‘family.’ We built a second family inside and outside those walls.”
“Hope through Motion” is the motto of the International Center for Spinal Cord Injury, and #TeamKennedyKrieger embodies that spirit.
“We found our hope, through our faith, in Kennedy Krieger. To us, Kennedy Krieger is hope. It’s part of us – it’s family. Now, let’s race!”
Join the Team Kennedy Krieger family by participating in one of the Baltimore Running Festival events. Choose from the marathon, half marathon, team relay, 5k, and a kids fun run. Join our over 200-person team by signing up or making a donation here.