What do the Atlanta Chapter of United Spinal Association, Atlanta’s quad rugby team, the Spinal Cord Injury USA Facebook group and a urological supply company called First-Source Catheters all have in common? If you guessed that they benefit the SCI community, you’re right. But for full credit, the correct answer is they were all founded or co-founded by Clint Cook.
It Is Great to See You Out
As a C5 quadriplegic for 32 years, Cook receives his fair share of “that-a-boys!” and other unsolicited and awkward comments from strangers, but he doesn’t let them get under his skin. In fact, he values them.
“At the end of the day, you don’t know what that person who said, ‘It’s great to see you out grocery shopping’ is going through,” says Cook, 52. “They could be a grandma whose grandchild has a brand-new SCI and is going through the same things you’ve gone through. Or they may have been diagnosed with something and don’t know if they’ll be able to go grocery shopping again.”
For this reason, Cook spends his time actively trying to connect and motivate people. “I’ve always made myself available to the community so that people think, ‘If this guy can do it, why can’t I?’” he says.
Cook participates in all types of sports, including indoor skydiving, wall climbing, curling, handcycling and more. He also dedicates a lot of his time to working with SCI researchers at Georgia Tech’s Rehabilitation Engineering and Applied Research Lab and Atlanta’s renowned Shepherd Center.
But there is no question that peer mentoring and community building are at the heart of his efforts. He works through Spinal Cord Injury USA, a group he started on Facebook and later developed into a nonprofit, to partner with Atlanta-area businesses and host meet-ups and activities.
“The year before last, people [in the Facebook group] were talking about how cool it was to meet people online and then someone mentioned, ‘It’d be really cool to be able to meet people face-to-face,’ and I thought, well, Atlanta’s a pretty cool city, so I decided to throw something together and invite people to come over,” says Cook.
What resulted is Spinal Cord Injury USA’s first annual Atlanta Meet-Up where, thanks to Cook, all activities were sponsored except for travel and hotel. That first get-together saw Cook host an indoor skydiving event with iFly and a wheelchair skating extravaganza with “Life Rolls On.” Afterwards, the group enjoyed a night at Dave and Buster’s and a farewell breakfast the next morning. This year, he’s already planning to top himself with an adaptive indoor rock climbing event.
He does it all so that people with SCI can have meaningful lives now, and in the future, regardless of what medical breakthroughs may or may not take place.
“I get a huge reward out of seeing people doing stuff and — when I say this, I say it not to take away anybody’s hope — not sitting around waiting for the cure,” he says. “I would never take away anyone’s faith in walking again but, for today, let’s live like this is how it’s going to be. Don’t wait until you’re walking again to start living life.”
A Quad Rolls Into a Bar …
You can’t be in here,” said the bar owner.
“I’m fine,” replied Cook. “I’m 21, and I’m legal to drink.”
The owner checked Cook’s ID and replied, “No, I don’t have insurance for you.”
“What do you mean you don’t have insurance for me?”
“If you get hurt in here, I don’t have insurance for you because you’re in a wheelchair.”
“I about fell from my wheelchair and passed out,” recalls Cook. “I thought, ‘what are you talking about?’ But I was young and newly injured, so I thought maybe insurance was a thing. I said, ‘Can you give me back the money I paid for my beer and game of pool?’
I didn’t know I’d been discriminated against. I was so green and I thought maybe he was telling me the truth. To this day, I have no clue what his reason was. I really think he felt he would be liable.
What You Get Out Of Volunteering:
Just the fact you might’ve changed someone’s life, just like someone might’ve changed your life. There’s no greater feeling than that for me.
It would have a later-model Corvette, a BMW M5 and a Maserati. Those are my dream cars.
Why I Joined United Spinal:
My dad always said, “You can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.” Really what he meant was someone gave me the tools to live my life, so I needed to do the same for someone else.
** This post was originally published on https://www.newmobility.com/2020/04/founder-extraordinaire-clint-cook/