Celebrating 25 Years of Giving People Back Their Lives

On December 1, I had a the pleasure of being a guest at the National Rehabilitation Hospital’s 25th Anniversary Gala Victory Awards. I was glad to have the opportunity to represent the JLW and left the evening feeling inspired by the honorees and grateful to our volunteers that chose NRH as their placement.

The emcee for the evening was J.R. Martinez, an Iraq veteran that spent 34 months in recovery after suffering severe burns to more than 40 percent of his body. While his career as a soldier has ended, his willingness to share his story with others in rehabilitation has not and has opened doors to a new chapter in his life. He is a former star on the daytime drama, All My Children, will serve as the 2012 Tournament of Roses Grand Marshall and recently won Dancing with the Stars. As J.R. navigated the guests through the evening and stories about each honoree was shared, I found myself thinking about the partnership between the NRH and the JLW, and why someone might choose NRH as their placement.

The ladies that volunteer at NRH serve for many reasons. Some have had their own personal experiences in recovery for injuries and illnesses, and found that volunteering at NRH was a way to help others in need of patience, understanding and positive reinforcement. Our volunteers are meeting people like Kevin Pearce, an honoree at the Anniversary Awards Dinner. Kevin was a star in snowboarding and an Olympic hopeful for the 2010 games in Vancouver. Kevin suffered a massive brain injury during a training run in 2009 and has spent the last two years in recovery. His story and journey to a new normal is inspiring not only to his family, friends and fans, but also to the Doctors, nurses, therapists and volunteers that are helping him through rehabilitation. His story touched me and I am inspired to know that we have volunteers that are giving their time to reach people at some of the most vulnerable points in their life.

I have been a member of the JLW for 11 years. Much of that time has been spent on service within the league and not directly in the community. I hope that we, as a volunteer organization, will continue to not only understand why we as individuals choose to give back, but take time to learn why our fellow volunteers give back. In doing that, we will further open our hearts and minds to each placement and become more aware of the impact the JLW makes each day.