There are a lot of people who turn to motivational speaking post-SCI, but the kind of speaking Brent Poppen, a C5-7 quadriplegic from Paso Robles, California, does, stands out. With his bleached blond hair and his M.O. of “Hugs by Brent,” the happy energy he emanates is unforgettable.
“Much of my presentation centers around hope, acceptance, not giving up and making the right choice in difficult circumstances,” he says. Last year he reached over 30,000 students. “There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing the eyes of someone in my audience ‘get it’ and then be able to hug that person afterwards.”
Becoming a motivational speaker was a natural transition for Poppen. After his injury at age 16 (he was injured while play-wrestling at a summer camp), adapted sports helped him beat depression, eventually catapulting him to the Paralympics. He competed in the 2004 Athens Paralympics in quad rugby, winning bronze, and in 2008 he went to the Beijing Paralympics for tennis. “When speaking, I let my audience wear my Olympic Medal,” he says. “I’ve seen how powerful it can be for others to feel and wear it.”
Poppen also started free adaptive water skiing camps through his job as a rehabilitation counselor at Valley Children’s Hospital. “We do multiple ski camps a year, ranging from two to four depending on private lake access. We also bring jet skis to pull kids with their family in towable rafts.” For more info, visit their Facebook page: ”Valley Children’s Hospital Adaptive Sports.”
From penning his autobiography, Tragedy on the Mountain: from Paralysis to the Paralympics, to working on his latest invention with the help of a certified hand therapist — a prosthetic to throw a baseball again (see his website for more) — his motivation is nonstop, and the hugs he gives along the way are truly helping to change the world. Go to hugsbybrent.com.
New Power Add-On for Wheelchairs
In April Google awarded $20 million to disability nonprofits looking to create innovative solutions. One of the grant winners, the Center for Discovery in Harris, New York, a nonprofit dedicated to helping people with disabilities reshape their lives, was awarded $1.25 million.
The center was specifically awarded the money for indieGo, a new power add-on device for manual wheelchairs that is cheaper than anything else that has been made to date. Even better, the device works as a platform that any manual wheelchair can drive onto. The controls can also be adapted to any ability level.
Even cooler, the team behind indieGo will be making the blueprints available online so that anyone can adapt and use them at no cost. indieGo will have enough power to motor through malls, schools and more. Learn more at theindiego.org.
Most Accessible Beach in the World?
Recently opened in Calabria, Italy, the Valentino Beach Club may be the most accessible beach in the world. With dozens of raised accessible private platforms (each with its own umbrella), a seat track pulley system that helps you into the water, and more, this free beach is definitely one for the bucket list.
See for yourself at facebook.com/valentinobeachclub.