As 2020 comes to a close, I've been trying to take stock of the past 12 months. I know many of us have experienced deep and difficult pain. And that pain has been compounded by a sense of fear and the unknown.
Fortunately, in my conversations with many of you, I've been encouraged (but not surprised) by our community's resilience and staying power. After all, we in the SCI Community were familiar with the concept of social distancing long before Covid-19 arrived.
That resilience has helped to bolster all of us here at U2FP. Looking back on 2020 now has us looking forward. We're grateful for what we've achieved with your support and excited about all the possibilities we're drumming up for 2021.
Like so many of you, we didn't know what to expect this year. At the beginning of 2020, we made our plans and set ambitious new goals that did not take into account a worldwide pandemic or the social/political upheaval that tragically kicked off in U2FP's own backyard of South Minneapolis.
Thankfully, we were able to pivot and adapt - and somewhat surprisingly - continue growing!
Not only did we completely transform our annual Working 2 Walk Symposium into a fully virtual, interactive event, but we were able to capitalize on a greater diversity of speakers and facilitate the same level of collaborative discussion as in past years.
In fact, the challenge of a virtual conference gave us new ideas for increasing engagement, access and cross-fertilization. And according to our attendee survey, it seemed to work! Just ask first-time attendee Kathryn Madalena - a graduate student in Dr. Phil Popovich's lab - who wrote about the advantages our virtual conference held for students like her.
Ultimately, this year's multi-faceted challenges had the effect of deepening our resolve. It was a reminder of the importance of our singular focus - curative interventions. This central concern is why we don't stop pushing the envelope, and keep accomplishing more, despite our small staff and budget. We continue to find innovative and creative ways to bring you - the SCI Community - into the cure movement. And that investment in a community-centric approach has paid off in a lot of ways, including:
- Adding $18.8 million to SCI research funding in the last 5 years by supporting, training and empowering our SCI Community to pass targeted state-level legislation through our Cure Advocacy Network, which have funded 6 clinical research studies/trials (so far) and delivered innovative treatments to over 50 individuals with an SCI
- Fostering meaningful cross-fertilization amongst the research enterprise, like the pre-clinical research and industry collaborations that grew out of this year's Working 2 Walk Virtual Symposium; or the years-long Work Groups we've been facilitating behind the scenes with Activity-Based Therapy centers, Neuromodulation researchers, and Translational scientists and stakeholders
- Producing educational & timely content for you on our podcast and in our blog and newsletter (see Sam Maddox's recent article, The EStim Bandwagon Effect)
This has been a tough year for sure - but thanks to your continued support, we've made encouraging gains in the cure movement!
We're looking forward to 2021, as well as your continued engagement and support with our work.
PS - Remember that there are special tax advantages to making a charitable contribution this year, such as a new deduction of up to $300 (or $600 for a couple); an increased limit (up to 100%) on charitable deductions; and more options for IRA and Stock donations. Read about the specifics, as outlined by our financial manager, Kathy Christopherson, here.