South Hill welcomed Janne Kouri on Saturday during his trip from California to Washington, D.C., in a wheelchair. Kouri is the founder of NextStep, an organization dedicated to making rehab and therapy available to those who are paralyzed. Kouri said the goal is to help people live both healthy and happy lives and be able to pursue their own goals. According to Kouri, rehab can be an important part of health for more than the obvious reasons, as people with paralysis sometimes face additional health challenges.
“We’re not meant to be sitting … down like this, so people suffer from poor blood pressure and circulation issues and bone density issues,” Kouri said.
Kouri said that when he had his accident, he had to travel to Louisville, Kentucky, to get the treatment he needed, even though he was living in California. He had the resources to be able to do that, but now he wants to give more people the opportunity to get the best treatment even if it is not feasible for them to move all the way across the country.
South Hill was one of the last stops on his 60-miles a day Ride for Paralysis. The goals of Kouri’s ride were to raise awareness about the needs that exist and raise funds for his organization and also to educate communities so they will begin to provide more services.
Kouri said that a person dealing with paralysis only gets an average of 36 days of rehab before being sent home. To date, NextStep has opened seven rehab centers across the nation and one internationally that put hospital therapies into community-based facilities that give people access to those therapies for the rest of their lives.
South Hill Business Development Manager Brentley Morris said that there is a plan to start a non-profit organization to help meet some of the needs of those who have disabilities.
“It’s going to be like an all-inclusive foundation for South Hill,” Morris said.
Morris said the first project is going to be an all-inclusive splash pond to connect to the all-inclusive playground at Centennial Park, but after that, the organization could look at making grocery stores and restaurants more inclusive.
The welcome celebration for Kouri was initially slated to be held at Centennial Park, but the threat of rain forced it to move to the Makers Market. Brian’s Steakhouse, Risin’ Smoke, Backdoor Bistro, and the Makers Market provided a reception, and the group did manage a drizzly visit to Centennial Park afterwards.