My interview with Alexandra Reeve Givens

Wow, what an amazing event Saturday Night, August 24, 2019 as a packed house at Heathrow Country Club celebrated NextStep Orlando’s 10 year anniversary. Alexandra Reeve Givens was the keynote speaker, beautiful and so gracious with her time, she literally hung out with me and a few friends as I interviewed her for the Center for Independent Living Newsletter. 

I also enjoyed and had a chance to chat briefly with Matt Austin from news 6 about supporting our efforts to create a self sustaining inclusive adaptive sports and recreational activities program in Central Florida. Matt also shared about his fathers Spinal Cord Injury and what that was like for him growing up.

I personally had the privilege of meeting Christopher Reeve about a year after his horse riding accident, when I was the minority outreach coordinator at the Westchester Independent Living Center in Whiteplains, New York in 1996 and the second time I met Christopher Reeve was when he was selected as man of the year by GQ magazine at radio city music hall 1997. I was even quoted in the New York Times.

It was an honor for me to interview the daughter of my most inspired mentor that I have had in the past 36 years of having a spinal cord injury. May you Rest In Peace and know your daughter continues to carry the torch for Spinal Cord Injury research and more.

A huge Thank you to Alexandra Reeve Givens for meeting with me and giving of her time before and after the event to speak and answer questions from so many others at the NextStep Orlando Gala.

Alexandra shared with the packed house that she was 11 years old when her dad had his horse riding accident, Alexandra remembers clearly how her life, her stepmother Dana and her brothers and sisters life changed in a brief second never to be the same again. Alexandria went on to state her dad‘s attitude of “not excepting NO for an answer” and how he began getting smarter and doing his research by reading medical journals and how Alexandra and her brother would hold them up for hours for her father to read and how eventually they got musical stands to hold the medical journals. She went on to state how her dad was determined to make a difference in his life and in the life of others.

The Reeve Foundation was started in 1982 as a community response to a crisis that has grown into a national movement. The founders of the organization, originally known as the American Paralysis Foundation, began their work at a time when spinal cord research was considered the graveyard of neurobiology. (Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation - Wikipedia).  

Today, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation has donated more then $140 million to Spinal Cord Injury Research, over $22 million in quality of life programs around the country including paralyzed Veterans of America to support initiatives to get people active in the community, to promote accessibility in peoples homes, job training, and accessible vehicles and to help people live more active and happy lives. NextStep Orlando is an affiliate of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation NeuroRecovery Network. They offer guided exercises, do -it -yourself gym and locomotor training for those seeking therapy and recovery from paralysis.

NextStep Orlando is an affordable, state-of-the-art, community-based paralysis recovery and fitness center. By offering standardized activity-based therapy programs and interventions, based on research; our centers provide the best chance for recovery.

Christopher Reeve passed away in 2004 and Dana Reeve passed away in 2006 despite the early death of her parents the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation continues to grow throughout the country and the world.  Alexandra was impressed with the support network that she was able to witness here in Central Florida with NextStep Orlando. Alexandra stated at the Ten Year Celebration Gala, “We are a community of friends and family who have come together to support each other”. Alexandra went on to state “the achievement we are most proud of are the community centers such as NextStep Orlando, that do activity based therapy. She recalls the benefits of this type of therapy from her father who was committed to being physically active by standing on a tilt table, applying electrical stimulation or suspended on a harness over a tread mill which lead to better circulation, stronger bones, fewer skin breakdowns, Alexandra went on to state “something that rang true for me and so many others that are committed to living the best quality of life one can have despite a Spinal Cord Injury, most importantly is what activity base therapy does to your mind, simply because, you feel better about yourself, you become empowered, there is power in this type of therapy and when combined with “epidural stimulation” individuals have a better chance in getting more return in motor function, sensation, bowel and bladder control. To know more about epidural stimulation please see the Christopher and Dana Reeve website or speak to a staff personnel from NextStep Orlando.

In 2002, Christopher Reeve said, “Nothing of any consequence happens unless people get behind an idea. It begins with an individual and they share the idea with more individuals...and eventually it becomes a movement”  

If you or someone you know has a Spinal Cord Injury or Disorder please reach out to those who been there before you and allow us to assist you with the multiple questions we are sure you have. 

-Hector Del Valle of the Center for Independent Living Central Florida

Our local CIL in Winter Park, FL  established in 1976, Serves 7 Central Florida Counties. CIL is dedicated to assist, empower and advocate those with disabilities.

Each of the programs incorporates a piece of CIL’s five core services: Peer-to-peer support, information & referral, advocacy, independent life skills training, and transition