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Issue 3 (June 2022)

A word from our CEO- Shaun Dyer:

Donors are incredible. For over twenty years, I’ve met and built relationships with donors. Here’s what I’ve come to know as gospel: donors are the lifeblood of social profit organizations. Donors are superheroes. Ironically, however, most donors I’ve met bristle at the suggestion! They’d rather remain anonymous, in the background quietly sharing their time, talent, and resources as a reflection of deeply held convictions about how the world should work. Donors are profoundly empathetic, enthusiastic partners who see big ideas and are willing to join movements that improve people’s lives in the community. 

SCI-AB prides itself on offering its clients the highest quality of programs and services. We often meet our clients at the lowest point in their lives following a devastating spinal cord injury. Our team’s singular focus on helping clients adjust, adapt, and thrive is made possible because donors support that focus and partner with us to fulfill our mission. 

Our donors are special. This issue of Spinal Times is something of a fan letter to our donors. Without you, SCI-AB wouldn’t have the opportunity to thrive. Without you, our clients wouldn’t receive the level of care and support SCI-AB has been able to offer for more than half a century. Without you, SCI-AB wouldn’t be SCI-AB. So, on behalf of the entire SCI-AB community, thank you, thank you, thank you.   

Employee Giving Spotlight: Shamel Elsayed


Shamel Elsayed has been a loyal supporter of SCI-AB for 36 years. In the last 9 years, he has been fundraising for SCI-AB through the Calgary Marathon platform and taking advantage of the employee matching program at Cenovus.


Shamel sustained a spinal cord injury in 1984 while living in Egypt. After the initial rehab, he decided to immigrate to Calgary to be closer to his brother in 1986. Sam, Shamel’s brother, connected him to SCI-AB (back then CPA). He was assigned a counsellor, who showed Shamel the different options he had. One of the most essential things for Shamel was the ability to drive. That made a massive difference for Shamel. Later, SCI-AB helped him find an accessible job that Shamel says, “Allowed me to put food on the table,” while learning the language and taking courses at the University of Calgary. After just a year or two, he was able to get his APEGA membership and to get his first technology position. Soon after, he married and had 2 sons.


But for Shamel, it was just the beginning. After watching Rick Hansen’s Man in Motion World Tour, he became inspired and started doing wheelchair ability challenges. He then joined Rick Hansen’s team of fundraisers and did that for 6 years. After that, Shamel became a community leader as he joined the SCI-AB Board of Directors. Even after his term was over, he continued to raise funds for the organization through the Calgary Marathon's platform utilizing the option of employee giving with his company. Since 2014, his first year participating in the marathon, and to this day, Shamel and his team have raised more than $300,000! Every year Shamel gathers his coworkers to do the marathon together either in person or virtually. Shamel gets around the marathon route in either his wheelchair, hand cycle, or hybrid hand bike.


To the question of why SCI-AB, Shamel simply says, “SCI-AB made a huge difference in my life. I went from ‘my life is over’ to ‘life is not over’ to ‘you have other options.’”


But Shamel’s journey had many challenges. During one of which, he wanted to take a year off from doing the ability challenge. But instead, he pressed on. It was a turning point in his life. “I wanted to take a year off, but then I saw a 6-year-old in a chair, and then I said- ‘no.’” Shamel says, “You have to let yourself go through sadness, denial, anger and accept and move on…realizing the limitations but pushing as much as you can, you’ll do things in different ways… but look at the glass half full.”


Shamel encourages others to pursue personal challenges and help others, “You have a bigger purpose than yourself.”


Shamel was recently chosen to be inducted into Calgary Marathon’s “Hall of Fame” as one of their most amazing Fundraisers over the last decade. SCI-AB staff and Board of Directors congratulate Shamel on this well-deserved honour!


*SCI-AB encourages everyone to review their employer’s employee matching program: many employers will match (fully or partially) the donation to your charity of choice! 

Peer to Peer Fundraiser Spotlight: Isaac Hole


Isaac decided to challenge himself and do a Navy SEAL 4x4x48 challenge, meaning every 4 hours running 4 miles for 48 hours. But something was missing. He did not want to do it just for himself; he wanted to dedicate his efforts to his beloved late Aunt Nancy, who passed away in 2009 when Isaac was nine. Isaac says his aunt did a lot for him and had a strong presence in his life. She sustained a spinal cord injury early in life but, as Isaac recalls, was always beaming with positivity. “She was so happy to see people. Once she gave me a box of hot wheels cars, and I was so excited,” he laughs. Isaac recalls thinking about his aunt throughout his childhood and young adulthood every time things got tough. He would ask himself, “What would Auntie Nancy do?” This would push him forward.


From March 6 to 8, 2022, Isaac ran 48 miles. He admits, “It was pretty tough, but the hardest part was starting.” He says that “There are a lot harder things out there.” His family and girlfriend have supported him throughout the challenge, taking pictures and driving next to him to keep him company. Isaac promoted his peer-to-peer fundraiser for several weeks through social media, phone calls, emails, and direct appeals. He ended up raising just over $10,000. “I totally met and exceeded my expectations. It was more fulfilling, not just for personal gain, but for a bigger cause. I was doing a personal challenge out of my comfort zone and for a bigger cause.”

Isaac encourages everyone to try a personal challenge and be confident, but also to choose a cause that is greater than yourself, “Be confident in yourself! Once you’re in it, that’s your motivation.”


*If you are interested in doing a peer-to-peer fundraiser, please contact us here.

Planned Giving Spotlight: Guy Coulombe 


Guy became acquainted with SCI-AB in 1980 when he was in rehab after sustaining a spinal cord injury. An SCI-AB counsellor came to the hospital to let new patients know about SCI-AB and its services. When Guy was discharged and moved to an apartment, the same counsellor came to do an initial assessment of need and told Guy: “You’re young, only 19 years old; what will you do with the rest of your life?” And Guy remembers asking, “What can I do?” After some time and with support from SCI-AB, Guy completed a degree in Psychology and a Social Work diploma. In addition, he learned how to use tools such as stick typing to adapt and adjust to his new life after injury.


Guy was regularly invited to public speaking events to share his experience and let others know that there is life after injury. In 1985 he started working at SCI-AB as a counsellor himself. When the rehab unit in the Glenrose Hospital opened, Guy became a well-known point person in the hospital. In time, Guy started the toll-free line for information services for everyone who needs help getting support, including families dealing with their loved one’s injury. 


Guy has a rich and diverse history working for SCI-AB. He has also helped to establish the Helping Way Fund. This emergency fund is meant to help SCI-AB’s clients access small financial grants to help pay for cost differentials for equipment and non-subsidized items.


Recently Guy has decided to include SCI-AB in his will. When asked why, he said, “I see the need and believe in the cause. I see the difference it makes in someone’s life. I want to see the organization continue as the government funding and other sources decrease.” Guy says that the number of people with spinal cord injuries increases every year. Also, thanks to better care and support, people live longer now, and an emerging population of older individuals with spinal cord injuries faces new challenges of aging with an injury. 


Guy is very passionate about Planned Giving. He encourages everyone to think about it, “I would encourage you to think about supporting others when you’re gone. If we don’t support ourselves- who will?”


*If you are interested to hear more about the planned giving program, please contact us here.

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