Ten years ago, Janne Kouri was paralyzed from the neck down, in an accident near the Manhattan Beach Pier. Yesterday, surrounded by family and friends, he departed from that very pier, on a 3,000 mile journey across the country. Not by plane, train, car or boat, but riding his mechanical wheel chair from Los Angeles, California, to Washington, D.C. Janne Kouri is one of the more than six million Americans living with paralysis. Through this historic journey, he hopes to raise awareness and help provide affordable, accessible healthcare and cutting edge equipment to this underserved demographic.
I had the absolute honor of being among those sending Janne off with cheers, posters, and plenty of his sponsored Vineyard Vines stickers. Adaptive sports have a wonderful aura around them, the ability to fill everyone nearby, able bodied and otherwise, with a magnetic energy. Working with this community makes me no stranger to men and women like Janne. But within him burns such a unique, humble fire, you cannot help but feel his energy invoking your own. When the deck was stacked against him, he persevered, knowing there was a way he could help both himself and his newfound community.
Janne is the founder and CEO of a non-profit known as NextStep. Founded in 2008, NextStep strives to offer athletes a place to recover, exercise, regain independence, and just as the name states, move forward. Through access to highly trained therapists, exceptional equipment, and the support of community, NextStep provides a new quality of life to its members, in six cities across the US. In 2019, two new NextStep paralysis centers will be opening abroad. These recovery centers serve patients with Spinal Cord Injury, Multiple Sclerosis, Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury, Cerebral Palsy and more.
As we waved and cheered for Janne, getting smaller in the distance on his way to Anaheim, I thought about the beach beneath our feet. The place that took Janne’s mobility could not take his heart, his spirit, or his strength. May we all find the power within these places in our own lives. The ability to take the most difficult of hurdles life throws at us, and make them our greatest accomplishments, is truly what our Wicked Flaws are all about.
To support, donate, and follow Janne on his epic journey, visit rideforparalysis.org
Follow on instagram at @nextstepla and with the hashtag #rideforparalysis