The Perfect Storm
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Today, SCORE is a mature, respected foundation. Dobkin
serves as its medical adviser, helping to locate potential research
grantees. Thus far, two researchers have received grants to support
their work. At UCLA, graduate student Thao Hoang, working in the
lab of neurologist Leif Havton, received $7,500 to support her study
of the possibility of reimplanting nerves in the spinal cord after
an injury. At UC San Diego's Center for Neural Repair, postdoctoral
fellow Armin Blesch was awarded $25,000 for his study of gene therapy
as a possible modality to help mend spinal-cord injuries. In addition,
15 spine-injured athletes around the nation have received individual
grants of $5,000 or more.
PERHAPS THE MOST moving display of SCORE's outreach
is the one that involves no exchange of dollars at all — its
It is 9 a.m. on a late-fall Saturday at the UCLA Aquatic Center
in Marina del Rey. The marine layer is still thick, but the harbor
and its channels are already alive with the traffic of sailboats,
racing shells and kayaks. A group of people, several of them in
wheelchairs, has gathered near the ramp, on the harbor's southern
end. Gjos is among them. Though he is sitting in a wheelchair, he
still seems to be better than 6 feet tall.
In addition to the disabled people, there are half a dozen UCLA
recreation instructors. The injured participants are here to kayak,
and the instructors look nervous. "If you're an instructor
and you're not used to dealing with disability, it can be scary,"
says Steve Orosz, the Aquatic Center's director. "There are
a lot of unknowns."
Inside a small classroom, a sun-bleached, athletic-looking young
woman named Kelle Malkowitz begins a presentation on how to teach,
assist and work with disabled people in a recreational capacity.
At Big Bear, where Malkowitz runs a full-time adaptive-sports program,
disabled people share the slopes and mountain trails for activities
as diverse as skiing, snowboarding and off-road wheelchairing. The
greatest fear instructors have about teaching disabled people "is
simply knowing how to talk to them," Malkowitz says. Also present
are a handful of other volunteers who will help with the outing.
One by one, they are asked how they became involved in this effort;
one by one they say it is because of Sean Gjos and SCORE.