Special to UM News
MIAMI, Fla. (May 28, 2015)— Tom Smith, a twice-paralyzed former hockey player, rode 2,100 miles from Massachusetts to The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the Miller School of Medicine last month, concluding his 38-day Reality Ride Challenge to raise funds and awareness for The Miami Project’s spinal cord injury research programs, which he credit for his recovery.
“The Reality Ride Challenge is a testament to what great doctors and therapists can do for someone with paralysis,” said Smith. “My goal is to build this ride into a fundraising platform to help The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis expedite the process of finding a cure so that everyone in a wheelchair can have the same opportunity to recover that I had.”
Smith, a former patient of Barth A. Green, M.D., the chair of neurological surgery and co-founder of The Miami Project, was first paralyzed in August of 2008 during an intense hockey play but was able to walk again after receiving treatment and therapy at The Miami Project. A similar injury occurred at another hockey game in 2009. Upon recovering, Smith decided he wanted to give back. With the Reality Ride Challenge his team raised $100,000 for The Miami Project’s paralysis research programs.
“What Tom and his team have been able to accomplish through the Reality Ride on behalf of The Miami Project is nothing short of remarkable,”said Miami Project President Marc Buoniconti. “Their determination to make this a reality in order to help others devastated by paralysis is admirable and we are proud to call them our friends.”
The ride left from Boston on March 25, with each day consisting of 65 miles on a bicycle, two miles in a sitting wheelchair bike, and one mile walking. The ride, which traced Smith’s path from his accident in Massachusetts to his recovery at The Miami Project, was also a brutal test of physical endurance and mental fortitude.
At The Miami Project’s research facility, Buoniconti and Green led a welcoming party with dozens of well-wishers that included family, friends, and researchers.
The Reality Ride Challenge is symbolic for riding and walking for those who cannot, said Smith, who completed the distance with advisor Teague Egan and others who joined for segments along the way.
Smith said that he is a “living, breathing, walking example of how the world-class doctors, scientists, physical therapists and nurses at The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis improve the daily lives of those living with paralysis.”