The Reach Scholarship is an annual award given to individuals, through the Reach Foundation, as an all expense paid experience to attend our No Barriers Summit. The goal of the Reach Foundation is to highlight stories of people who have reached into darkness and difficulty only to emerge far stronger and are able to elevate the world around them. This year we received an unprecedented number of applications for scholarships and there were so many deserving people.
With the help of my team, we narrowed our choices down to the 7 people below and I am so pleased to welcome them in as members of our No Barriers community.
Caitlin Conner, a native Texan, is a world-renowned athlete, wonderful mom, model, and advocate. But, she has had to overcome many obstacles in her 28 years. In the space of just 3 years she lost her brother, her step dad and her mom, and was in a motorcycle accident with her husband, which resulted in a 75% partial amputation of her leg. While, in the hospital recovering, she discovered she was pregnant. Caitlin persevered and has since become involved with numerous sports, including triathlons, and made history as the 1st female amputee boxer in the USA and 2nd in the world! She now spends time spreading inclusion awareness through modeling and an art therapy project she created, as well as continuing to pursue her passions.
In 2014, when Andrew (AJ( Hunt was just 21, he was in a car accident that left him quadriplegic — paralyzed from the collarbones down and with very limited dexterity in his hands (C5-C6 functional level). After 2 months in the hospital and a year of physical therapy, he returned to college full-time. Originally, AJ was working towards a stable job in finance, but wanted to use his story as a vehicle to help people realize their potential for overcoming adversity; especially kids from disadvantaged backgrounds. AJ joined Teach For America and loves the positive difference it makes. He has been learning independence, giving back to his community, and ultimately aims to helps others understand and see those with handicaps in a positive light.
Laurel Hilbert faced many challenges growing up in Syria. He was not accepted as a blind and gay man by his family or society. At 17 years old, he escaped to the US seeking safety and freedom, but it was not always an easy transition. He experienced homelessness, hunger, loneliness, and had to adapt to a different set of cultural norms, all while navigating his way while blind. Now, living independently in San Francisco, Laurel made it his goal to help others in similar situations. He was recently featured in Time Magazine celebrating his triumphs and his outreach in his community, including starting a non-profit, A Dignified Home: Children and Youth Services, providing at-risk youth a safe home and services.
At only 10 yrs old, Noah Barnes marched 4,240 miles across America setting a world record for the youngest person to actually cross the U.S.on foot, and he chose the longest route. Noah was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 16 months old. In May 2016 he was having a rough week and decided he didn’t want to be a diabetic anymore. To channel his frustration he learned about fundraising and teamed up with his dad to start his own fundraising event and his just happened to be pretty big in scope! Noah was highly inspired after he watched the documentary “Into the Wind” about Terry Fox and his run across Canada to raise funds for cancer research. His family changed their lives around to support Noah and help him achieve his goal but it was Noah’s vision and perseverance that ensured they not only completed their goal of finishing their trek but they raised over $24k for diabetes research.
When Kara Brouhard was 5 years old she fell skiing and was hit by an out of control skier. His ski tip shattered her skull. She suffered a severe TBI and required multiple brain surgeries. She was in a coma for 2 months and was left with (L) hemiparesis, a significant (L) visual field deficit, the inability to tell time, understand math or money concepts and is unable to read. Her family was repeatedly told that she needed to be placed in a group home for individuals with intellectual/developmental disabilities, but Kara, is fiercely independent, and wanted to live on her own. Kara’s mom, Alice, sought out how to overcome those barriers with the use of technology. Now, Kara’s iPad, her “Paddy,” and a variety of apps have helped guide her to live independently in her own house (with her dog) and navigate her life successfully on her own terms. Kara and Alice travel around the country together educating individuals with “abilities,” their families and those who provides services, to encourage the use of technology to support self direction.
Carol Carlson, of Eagle Colorado, loves the outdoors, painting, gardening and getting out on her tricycle as much as possible. Carol has lived with multiple sclerosis since she was 24 and in 2015 learned she had breast cancer and underwent a double mastectomy. Carol is now a cancer survivor and overcomes the challenges MS throws at her every day. Carol’s job allows her to work with teenagers and she would like to help them learn to become resilient and face their challenges head on. A couple organizations Carol volunteers with are CAN DO MS, a nonprofit that provides support and education on health and wellness to families of those with MS, as well as the Vail Valley Charitable Fund which helps people who are in medical crisis.
Sanjay Nediyara is 29 years old, lives in India and is a successful technologist who has developed dozens of mobile apps as well as started his own company, Sieve. He is also deaf. Born in a remote village in southern India, where he did not have a computer until he was in high school, or a proper internet connection until college, Sanjay’s dream of pursuing computer engineering was not going to be easy. After losing his hearing fully while he was in college, the odds were stacked against him even more. But Sanjay learned to adapt and use technology to his advantage. Now, he’s racked up innumerable accomplishments, including building a developer community in his city from scratch to over 1,000 people working with Google. His work helps people, of all abilities, all around the globe on a daily basis.