(WIVB) – Exactly 15 years ago, Natalie Barnhard suffered a spinal cord injury that altered her life.
On Tuesday, she made the announcement that her foundation will open a paralysis recovery center- the first of its kind in Western New York.
“It’s absolutely exciting that I get to use my experience to make a change for other people,” Barnhard told a room full of people at a Tuesday press conference.
On Oct. 22, 2004, Barnhard was a 24-year-old physical therapist when a 600-lb. piece of equipment fell on her.
After exhausting her therapy options locally, Barnhard had to leave Western New York for Georgia to get therapy at the Shepherd Center in Atlanta.
“I was down there for about ten years,” Barnhard said. “I left my family and friends and it’s one of the reasons I now want to start something up here.”
Barnhard started her foundation, Wheels With Wings, which now has been renamed The Motion Project.
Over the past seven years, the foundation has given grants to people with spinal cord injuries in Western New York and nationally. The grants assist with things that their insurance doesn’t cover, like rehabilitation, wheelchairs, even some home modifications.
“There’s a lot that insurance won’t pay for,” Barnhard explained. “Therapy is very limited, usually they cut people off at a certain time- so that’s where we want to help people.”
The Motion Project’s new center, the Natalie Barnhard Center for Activity Based Spinal cord Rehabilitation and Recovery, will be located on Genesee Street in Cheektowaga. It will specialize in activity-based recovery for people with spinal cord injuries, traumatic brain injuries, and other neurological conditions.
The center will feature state-of-the-art equipment, work with UB for research and education, and will offer care navigation services for patients and their families.
The Motion Project is looking at a spring 2020 opening date for the center.
“It’s been a dream of mine for years, pretty much since my injury,” Barnhard said. “Through the grace of God, I’ve wanted to still help people and heal people and this is a way for me to do it.”
For more information on The Motion Project, click here.