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UCLA Magazine Summer 2004
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Summer 2004
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 an impetus.

"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.

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