The Craig H. Neilsen Foundation awarded its inaugural $1 million Craig H. Neilsen Visionary prize to SCI community leaders Reveca Torres, Andrea Dalzell and Dr. Brian Kwon, a spinal cord researcher in Vancouver, Canada.
Torres is the founder of the Backbones, a nonprofit that serves the spinal cord injury community. She is also a board member of United Spinal Association, New Mobility’s 2016 Person of the Year, and author of “Reframed” for NM. Dalzell, a nurse who was featured in “Nurses on Wheels,” is a member of the New York City chapter of United Spinal Association.
“It was just so shocking,” says Torres about her initial reaction to the prize. She plans to use the money to expand Backbones. “Up until now we’ve been an organization operating on such a small budget — it’s exciting to have the opportunity to dream a little bigger.”
Dalzell discovered she was a visionary prize winner on Good Morning America. When asked what she wanted to do with her award, she immediately responded, “I want to start a whole program for people with disabilities to get into health care. They should be given a chance.” Even as all New York City hospitals were desperate for medical personnel during the height of the pandemic, Dalzell struggled against disability discrimination to find employment in her vocation.
The Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize was established this year to honor the memory and legacy of Neilsen, an entrepreneur with an SCI who strove to improve life for others who also have spinal cord injuries. The prize highlights Neilsen’s values, such as extraordinary determination, inexhaustible passion and an ability to inspire. In a release announcing the winners, the foundation’s executive director Kym Eisner said, “At a time when we are all looking for reasons to believe in a better future, it is our hope that celebrating these individuals’ exciting accomplishments and leadership brings a smile to your face.”