Published 7/03, Copyright 2003,

A WheelchairJunkie's Guide to Charitable Giving
by Mark E. Smith

Disability comprises a unique community, one without boundaries of gender, race, religion, or class - no matter who you are, or where you come from, disability may affect your life or that of someone near you.  As those of us with disabilities know first-hand, disability certainly doesn't discriminate toward socioeconomics.  In fact, whether rich or poor, at some point everyone with a disability encounters the financial burden of care, treatment, equipment, and research.  Fortunately, many foundations and charities exist to assist the entire spectrum of living with disability, from treatment to independent living to cures.  We often rely on these organizations and praise their efforts; but, how often do we, members of the disabled community, give back in time and money, better ensuring that others in our situations will have assistance, as well?

The following is a list of highly effective, fiscally responsible charities that directly support segments of the disabled population.  These charities are among the highest rated via charity watch groups, and offer the most meaningful returns on your time and money - that is, these groups are among the best ways to make a difference in the lives of others with disabilities.

I hope that whether it's donating a few hours per week at a local charity, or sending in a few dollars to a national foundation, you'll make an effort throughout the year to contribute toward the leading charitable organizations within the disabled community.

American Academy of Neurology Foundation
1080 Montreal Avenue
St Paul,  MN   55116
tel: (651)695-2712
fax: (651)695-2791

The American Academy of Neurology Foundation (AAN Foundation) is an independent organization affiliated with the American Academy of Neurology (AAN). The AAN Foundation's mission is to broaden the base of support for public education and research in the neurosciences. The AAN Foundation believes that in working to achieve this mission, it will in turn make a meaningful contribution to the more general goal of the entire neurologic community: to improve the quality of care and the quality of life for people with neurological disorders. The AAN Foundation encourages better understanding of the impact of neurological disease on our society through publications, medical outreach, public programs, and collaboration with other neuroscience organizations.

Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association
27001 Agoura Road
Suite 150
Calabasas Hills,  CA   91301
tel: (800)782-4747

The Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association (ALSA) is the only national non-profit voluntary health organization dedicated solely to the fight against ALS. Our mission is to find a cure for and improve living with ALS, more commonly referred to as Lou Gehrig's disease. The ALS Association seeks to promote awareness and understanding of ALS and the work of the ALS Association by providing up-to-date information and education materials to the ALS community. . . ALS patients and families, caregivers, researchers and members in the health care fields.  

Canine Companions for Independence
P.O. Box 446
Santa Rosa,  CA   95402
tel: (866)224-3647

Canine Companions for Independence (CCI) enhances the lives of people with disabilities by providing highly-trained assistance dogs and ongoing support to ensure quality partnerships. Founded in 1975, Canine Companions for Independence pioneered the concept of training dogs to assist people with disabilities. For hundreds of men, women and children since then, Canine Companions for Independence has opened the door to opportunities to take charge of their lives. A total of 1,847 graduate teams have been placed from CCI's founding to date.  

Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation
500 Morris Avenue
Springfield,  NJ   07081
tel: (800)225-0292

The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF) is committed to funding research that develops treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. The Foundation also vigorously works to improve the quality of life for people living with disabilities through its grants program, paralysis resource center and advocacy efforts. In just a few years' time, CRPF has given $26 million in research grants to the world's best neuroscientists. CRPF grants are catalytic. The research we're funding has the potential to cure not only paralysis, but other devastating diseases, such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, cancer, juvenile diabetes, ALS and heart disease.

Cystic Fibrosis Foundation
6931 Arlington Road
Bethesda,  MD   20814
tel: (800)344-4823
fax: (301)951-6378

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation was established in 1955 to assure the development of the means to cure and control cystic fibrosis (CF) and to improve the quality of life for those with the disease. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation supports and accredits more than 110 CF care centers nationwide, which provide high-quality, specialized care for those with CF. These centers, located at major teaching and community hospitals, offer comprehensive diagnosis and treatment for people with CF and their families. The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation has consistently been recognized as one of the top health organizations in the country at efficiently using its money raised to invest in medical/research programs.

March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains,  NY   10605
tel: (888)663-4637
fax: (914)428-8203

President Franklin Roosevelt established the March of Dimes in 1938 to save America's youth from polio. The March of Dimes takes pride in our history, our unique record of success: over six decades of service to the public, helping to save our nation's children and babies. The mission of the March of Dimes is to improve the health of babies by preventing birth defects and infant mortality. The March of Dimes carries out this mission through programs of research, community services, education and advocacy.

Muscular Dystrophy Association
3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson,  AZ   85718
tel: (800)572-1717

Created in 1950, the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) is a voluntary health agency, a dedicated partnership between scientists and concerned citizens aimed at conquering neuromuscular diseases that affect more than a million Americans. MDA combats neuromuscular diseases through programs of worldwide research, comprehensive medical and community services, and far-reaching professional and public health education. MDA has more than 200 offices across the country, operates 230 hospital-affiliated clinics and supports nearly 400 research projects around the world. Since its earliest days it has been energized by its number-one volunteer and national chairman, entertainer Jerry Lewis.              

National Education for Assistance Dog Services
P.O. Box 213
West Boylston,  MA   01583
tel: (978)422-9064
fax: (978)422-3255

National Education for Assistance Dog Services (NEADS) is a national non profit organization established to provide hearing and service dogs for people who are deaf or who use wheelchairs. These assistance dogs become an extension of their owners and bring security, freedom, independence and relief from social isolation to their human partners. Founded in 1976, NEADS is the oldest continuing hearing dog program in the country and the only program of its kind in New England, as well as one of the industry's largest. Among the types of dogs trained are: hearing, service, social, specialty, service dogs for the classroom, ministry, therapy and laptop (small, lap dogs), and walker dogs.                

Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults
300 Royal Palm Way
Palm Beach,  FL   33480
tel: (561)655-7266
fax: (561)655-3269

Founded in 1940, the Rehabilitation Center for Children and Adults assures that quality rehabilitation is available to everyone. Our clean, safe, well-equipped facility in Palm Beach includes a unique indoor heated pool and licensed therapists provide one-to-one individual care to over one hundred people each day. Children and adults from all corners of Palm Beach County are receiving help so they can improve their quality of life. Our therapy goals include activities of daily living, ambulation, balance, communication, coordination, leisure participation, muscle function, range of motion, self care, and strength. Diagnoses treated include ALS, MS, Parkinson's, amputee, arthritis, autism, automobile injury, cardiac, cerebral palsy, developmental delay, joint replacement, and more.

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