DOWNEY – The average person might think otherwise, but for Richard Bell, Carlos Benavides, and Ray Pizarro, their circumstances do not make them any different than anyone else.
“They look at us as handicapped or disabled; they give us that brand. We want them to know we’re just like them. We can do anything they can,” said Benavides. He smiled. “We’re disabled, and you’re a TAB: temporarily able-bodied. Eventually you’re going to get where we’re at, whether it be injury, age, whatever. We got there a little faster. But there is life after injury and that’s what Pushrim is about.”
Pushrim began in 2009 by Bell and Pizarro, both of whom are quadriplegic. It began as a social network site for fellow individuals with spinal cord injuries.
“Pushrim started as an idea that Richard and I, both being quadriplegics, doing rehab at Rancho and other facilities,” said Pizarro. “One day we were at a sporting event at Rancho, and we looked at each other and said, ‘Man, it’s really hard to catch up with our good friends once a year every time a big event like that comes along. What can we do to keep each other networked a lot better, and maybe meet more frequently?’”
From there, Bell and Pizarro began reaching out to their friends, encouraging them to join the site. Eventually Benavides, also a quadriplegic, joined them in their efforts to aid the quadriplegic community. Now, Pushrim bolsters over 2000 members.
Despite its humble origin, Pushrim has since evolved into more than a place for individuals with spinal injuries to connect.
In May of last year, Pushrim achieved nonprofit status and began working with any individual with mobility impairment. Some of their work includes the donation of art supplies to the art program at Rancho Los Amigos Hospital, and the creation of a wheelchair donation program.
Before becoming a 501(c)(3) organization, Pushrim had also tried to reach out via podcast entitled “The Life After Injury Series.”
“We invited different guests in from the community that are going through life that found out how to overcome their injuries,” said Pizarro, “More of an inspirational type thing, and resources.”
The podcast, which can be found on the Pushrim website and YouTube channel, is nearing 50 episodes.
Benavides says he’s adamant about the work that Pushrim does because of his experience.
“I got injured in 2003, got my surgery in 2005, and didn’t get therapy until 2007,” said Benavides. “That was because of the system; it was a workman’s comp injury.”
Benavides was stuck at home for over a year with only his wife to aid him.
“When I got together with these gentlemen right here, I told them my story and we decided ‘you know what? It’s not right, the things they do to people out there,’” said Benavides.
“We try to help those people who kind of fall through the cracks,” added Pizarro. “There’s a lot of them who either don’t have insurance, don’t have family support, don’t have housing, don’t have all these things, that if they don’t fit into one of those sectors they’re left to fend for themselves.”
To help support those who do struggle after their injury, Pushrim has created a partnership with Rancho.
With Rancho’s help, Pushrim has been able to give six wheelchairs to mobility impared individuals, with some still available for when a new case comes along. Rancho is not able to give these wheel chairs away on its own due to liability reasons.
Pushrim also runs a support group once a month at Precision Rehabilitation in Long Beach, which they keep open to the family and friends of individuals with mobility impairments.
“It’s a support group, but we get together and it’s really relaxed,” said Bell. “People can talk freely about whatever issues they’re having, and we can encourage each other amongst ourselves and try to give people help that way.”
For more information on Pushrim, visit pushrim.org