The Perfect Storm
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FOR ALL THIS ACTIVITY, research and hope,
Sean Gjos might logically have been a terminus. Instead, he became
"Sean got wise to what we were doing," says Young, "and
he did not like being the focus of anything. He came over to me,
Ralph and Eric, and said, 'I know what you guys are doing. I appreciate
it. But there have to be other people going through what I'm going
through. What can we do to help them?' "
At that point, just four weeks after Gjos' injury, the fund-raising
had surpassed everyone's expectations. Some $100,000 had been donated,
and still more people wanted to give. "One thing we were being
asked," says Vogel, "was, 'I want to contribute to Sean's
fund — can this be tax deductible?' "
That may be a tough question for a film student or English major,
but it was a no-brainer for an M.B.A. candidate. Vogel, Young and
Eisner explored the tax options and decided their best bet for attaining
nonprofit status was to do it under the aegis of an umbrella foundation.
In early April of '99, they met with Peter Dunn, director of gift
planning for the California Community Foundation, and presented
him with a plan and mission statement for an organization that they
had dubbed SCORE.
As a beneficiary of SCORE funds himself, Gjos is not an active
officer, but he serves as the organization's honorary chairperson.
He, Vogel, Eisner and Young — now officially cofounders of
the organization — worked to hammer out a mission statement
that is forward-thinking, unique and compassionate.
Forward-thinking because it aims to fund researchers who may be
overlooked by larger funding organizations such as the Christopher
Reeve Paralysis Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.
Unique because one of the foundation's focuses is on activity-based
mentoring. "When an athlete is injured doing the sport he loves,"
Gjos says, "his instinct is to shrink back from sports and
other physical activities." SCORE's mentoring program takes
active, athletic individuals who have already come to terms with
their spine injuries and pairs them up with newly injured people.
Compassionate because the fund provides grants directly to injured
individuals to help cover the all-important costs of retrofitting
residences, workplaces and vehicles.