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Organization overview

Triumph Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose mission is to help individuals with Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) to triumph over their disability and to inspire them to keep moving forward with their lives by pushing themselves to get better every day. Triumph Foundation works to minimize the obstacles that one faces after suffering a Spinal Cord Injury.

Triumph Foundation provides resources, hope and security to people living with paralysis – not just initially when the injury occurs, but as a lifelong support network. Additionally, we hold events that are a captivating force within the entire community. We are the go-to organization for people living with mobility impairments in Southern California.

Triumph Foundation provides the following programs:

Our programs assist a person from the beginning of their injury with our Care Basket Outreach; down the road to recovery getting the necessary goods and services to achieve independence through our Keep Moving Forward Grant and Exchange program; and then assist a person with SCI to reemerge into the community by helping them emotionally through our Support Groups and restore a sense of life and adventure through our Adaptive Recreation activities. We have become a force in the community that is a critical resource to people living with paralysis.

To date, the organization has touched the lives of over 5,000 individuals with disabilities; given $250,000 in assistance to people with inadequate medical insurance and financial hardship; performed ten accessible home remodels; provided wheelchair accessible vehicles to six individuals who did not have the means to purchase one on their own; handed out over 2,000 Care Baskets full of resources to those newly injured; and regularly visited 18 area hospitals and rehabilitation centers throughout the Los Angeles, Orange, Ventura, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, Riverside, Kern, and San Diego counties.

Triumph primarily focuses on people that have Spinal Cord Injury/Disorder (SCI/D) that causes paralysis. Many of our programs are open to any person dealing with disability. Our outreach supports children, adults, and Veterans; and people of all backgrounds and demographics. The majority of our outreach is in Southern California, but we also provide resources and assistance to people across the United States.

Triumph Foundation is a chapter of United Spinal Association, and is the Los Angeles Paralympic Sport Club.

The organization was founded in 2008 by Andrew and Kirsten Skinner. Andrew suffered a C4, C5, & C6 Spinal Cord Injury in 2004 and is a recovering quadriplegic. Kirsten was with Andrew at the time of his injury and has been with him every step of the way. They are now married...read the rest of their story below.

About Spinal Cord Injury

A Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) is when a traumatic event, disease, or virus damages the cells within the spinal cord and affects the nerves that relay signals back and forth from the brain and the body resulting in the loss of normal function. Every year 10,000 - 20,000 people suffer spinal cord injuries in the United States. There are millions of people living in America today that suffer from paralysis.


More Info

Board Members
Andrew Skinner
Founder
Bio

My name is Andrew Skinner and I suffered a spinal cord injury on November 26, 2004 and I am a recovering quadriplegic. I’m glad to report that I am getting better every day. I got hurt six months after graduating from college. I had landed a great job, I had found the love of my life, Kirsten, and I was on top of the world. My family and I were celebrating Thanksgiving at our family cabin in Lake Arrowhead and the ground was covered in a blanket of fresh powder snow. We spent the weekend playing in the snow, sledding, building snowmen, and snowboarding.

On the day after Thanksgiving, I fell while I was snowboarding in front of the cabin. Although it did not appear to be a hard fa...

My name is Andrew Skinner and I suffered a spinal cord injury on November 26, 2004 and I am a recovering quadriplegic. I’m glad to report that I am getting better every day. I got hurt six months after graduating from college. I had landed a great job, I had found the love of my life, Kirsten, and I was on top of the world. My family and I were celebrating Thanksgiving at our family cabin in Lake Arrowhead and the ground was covered in a blanket of fresh powder snow. We spent the weekend playing in the snow, sledding, building snowmen, and snowboarding.

On the day after Thanksgiving, I fell while I was snowboarding in front of the cabin. Although it did not appear to be a hard fall, the landing apparently was. When I fell, I broke my 4th, 5th, and 6th cervical vertebra in my neck and suffered a spinal cord injury. Instantly, I was completely paralyzed from the neck down. I was rushed to the hospital where they reconstructed my neck and I began a new chapter in my life. My whole life’s focus was turned to recovery. Slowly, through prayer, physical therapy, exercise, and determination I started to regain use of my body.

I spent the next three months in the hospital, regaining as much strength as I could. My family, friends, and loved ones stayed by my side keeping me motivated and inspired. My focus was on restoring the use of my body. I wore a neck brace for only 13 days. Shortly after it was removed, I started physical and occupational therapy.

By the time I was discharged from the hospital I started to get return of movement in my biceps, shoulders, and wrist extensors. I also had a little sensation in my lower body and I could even wiggle one of my toes. I started to learn how to propel myself in a manual wheelchair, but spent the majority of the time in a power chair. Using adaptive equipment I learned how to feed myself, brush my own teeth, and to write with a pen. I relentlessly trained towards my goal of maximizing my return of function.

Going home is when rehab really started. When I went home I was left with a decision to make: am I going to keep working to get better or am I going to accept that this is as good as it gets and give up. To me, the answer was clear, and I began exercising and training from home to be the best me I could be and maximize my recovery. I tried to do as much as I possibly could do for myself. It is often hard for others to watch me struggle to do simple tasks, but that is the only way to learn.

While I was in the hospital at a SCI Support Group, I had met a man named Kenny Craig, who told me about a trainer he was working with named Taylor-Kevin Isaacs, who is an exercise physiologist and is skilled at working with people with neuromuscular disorders. While I was at home waiting for outpatient physical therapy to get approved by my insurance, I gave Taylor a call, and that turned out to be a life changing event.

I started working with Taylor and he helped me take charge of my own care, he educated me about how the human body moves and functions, he inspired me to push myself harder than I thought possible, and at times he believed in me even when I did not. He helped me realize the importance of good posture, how essential it is to have a balanced diet, and the necessity of exercise in my daily life. Taylor designed specific exercise programs and life style enhancement regiments for me with the focus on getting me back on my feet. Kirsten took me to my appointments and helped me bring home what we were learning in the gym.

I eventually got approved for outpatient physical therapy at Northridge hospital and I started to work with two excellent physical therapists, Gary Quist and Gloria Almazan. On the days I had physical therapy, Taylor and I would coordinate my training programs with my work-out at the hospital, so we worked like a team focused on my rehabilitation.

In the first year after my injury I transitioned out of a power wheelchair and into a manual wheelchair full time, I stopped needing as much adaptive equipment to do basic daily tasks, my trunk control greatly increased and I no longer needed to be strapped into my wheelchair, I had slight finger flexion in my right hand, and I had muscle contractions in many new parts of my body including in my quadriceps and hip extenders. A friend from the gym, named Derrick Langjahr, gave me a standing frame to use, and to this day I stand routinely.

In the second year after my injury my entire body strengthened. I regained strength in my back’s spinal extensors, in my trunk and core, in my quadriceps & in my hip extenders, and started to get muscle contractions in one of my triceps. I learned how to transfer myself, I started to work out on a leg press machine, and I was able to stand with assistance in 4 ½ feet of water. I completed drivers training and earned my driver’s license. My brother and I started a small business in real estate and I also went back to work for my brother’s construction company. I went surfing, I went boating, and I had the opportunity to take my first step towards a lifelong goal of mine to become a pilot by flying with a flight instructor.

To top it all, Kirsten and I finally got married! If there is one thing this injury has taught me, it is that you cannot wait until tomorrow.

In my third and fourth year after my injury I continued to grow in leaps and bounds. On the leg press machine I reached a personal best of being able to push up 80 lbs., my balance and posture greatly improved, I figured out how to get myself into my wheelchair starting from lying prone in bed, I gained more sensation in my lower body including hot/cold, I stood in 4 ½ feet of water independently, and I was awarded a grant from the California Department of Rehabilitation to help me modify a van to be accessible.

In August of 2008 I stood for the first time since my injury on dry land between parallel bars with the help of my physical therapist, Gloria Almazan. My mission is to walk again; and Lord willing, it is not a matter of if I am going to walk again, but when; whether it is through pure determination or medical breakthrough. I have reached even more milestones. I stood in 3 ½ feet of water with a walker independently using AFO leg braces. With a little bit of assistance, I even walked in that depth of water (Youtube Videos). In 4 ½ feet of water I can take a few steps on my own.

I've gone waterskiing, sailing, kayaking, hand cycling, and even flew an airplane again. I recently took up the wheelchair sport of Quad Rugby and I love it. I started to play with the Northridge Knights Murderball team and have had the opportunity to travel with them to several tournaments. I’m training now to be the best rugby player I can be. I am still pushing myself to maximize both my recovery and my life.

I am very proud to report that on September 4, 2010 Kirsten and I welcomed a little girl into this world and I became a daddy. Her name is Elizabeth Jayne Skinner. We call her Betty and she is, by far, my most significant accomplishment of my life.

Since my injury, I have trained every day and I have grown tremendously. I have come so far from where I started the day I got hurt; from where I was when I got discharged from the hospital; and even from where I was a month ago, a week ago, or even a day ago. I am getting better every day. I am constantly learning new ways to perform daily tasks that I had struggled with in the past, and I am getting closer to my ultimate goal of being independent.

In August 2008, Kirsten and I started Triumph Foundation. Ever since I got hurt, we always wanted to give back to others who have suffered an injury like mine and are recovering from paralysis. Triumph Foundation’s mission is to inspire people with spinal cord injuries to triumph over their disability and to push themselves to get better every day by moving forward with their lives.

On behalf of Triumph, Kirsten and I work as a mentors to people with Spinal Cord Injury. Triumph shares information, experiences, and ideas among those who are injured to be a positive influence. With a servants heart, Triumph reaches out to the SCI community by giving out care baskets to newly injured people with resources that will help them with their recovery, by getting involved in SCI support groups, by providing advice and informational materials about the many organizations that exist to help people get their lives back on track, by helping people with financial constraints to purchase equipment, and by doing home modifications to make them more wheelchair accessible. Our message is universal; the goal is to be better tomorrow than we are today.

This injury has taught me many lessons. One of the first things you learn when you go through a catastrophic event is what is really important to you. You learn to not sweat the small stuff and to count your blessings. I am blessed in so many ways. I believe we are not given more than we can handle in Life. There is Good in everything that happens, although it might not be clear at first.

This injury has also taught me how to deal with challenges; and life is full of challenges. Life does not always go as planned and everyone faces obstacles, but what matters is how you deal with it, and what you do about it. You cannot live your life focused on the things that happened in the past, just like you cannot drive a car forward if you are focused on the rearview mirror; you will crash. You have to seize every opportunity in life. You have to set goals and get involved with them because there is no telling what tomorrow will bring. Time moves by fast, and no one can ever repay you for your time. Every decision you make counts, so be deliberate. Small successes quickly turn into major accomplishments. Chunk things down into achievable goals, and keep at it. The most certain way to succeed is to never stop trying. I wish I had the mindset and focus that I have now before my injury.

I have always lived an active lifestyle, and just because I am in a wheelchair does not mean I am just sitting around. Many things in my life changed when I got hurt, but that does not mean I stopped living my life, I just have to do things differently. My accident left me as a newborn, and I had to relearn how to do everything. I feel blessed that my most powerful muscle, my mind, is still very much intact and stronger than ever. Everyone has their own scars, and there are things in life that you just cannot change. Sometimes the only thing you can change is your attitude and you have to do what you have to do. Just Keep Moving Forward.

Life is not about how you fall, it is about how you land, and if you pick yourself back up again. My injury was my fall, my landing is my recovery, and what I do with my life is me picking myself back up again.

Kirsten Skinner
Founder
Bio

My name is Kirsten Skinner and I am married to a man with a spinal cord injury. I have experienced what it means to be a quadriplegic first hand through the journey of recovery with my husband Andrew Skinner.

Our relationship all began in college. I met the most intriguing man in the business department at California State University, Channel Islands while I was completing my Bachelors degree in Business. His name was Andrew Skinner. He was funny, athletic, outgoing, smart, and he had the tendency to always have the right thing to say. I knew I met someone special and from that moment on my life changed forever.

Soon after completing our degrees we moved in together, found g...

My name is Kirsten Skinner and I am married to a man with a spinal cord injury. I have experienced what it means to be a quadriplegic first hand through the journey of recovery with my husband Andrew Skinner.

Our relationship all began in college. I met the most intriguing man in the business department at California State University, Channel Islands while I was completing my Bachelors degree in Business. His name was Andrew Skinner. He was funny, athletic, outgoing, smart, and he had the tendency to always have the right thing to say. I knew I met someone special and from that moment on my life changed forever.

Soon after completing our degrees we moved in together, found good jobs, and began what was suppose to be the best time of our lives. Then before we knew it, tragedy knocked on our door. On November 26, 2004 the love of my life, Andrew Skinner, experienced a snowboarding accident. I was right behind him when he fell. The fall did not look concerning, but when I heard his voice I knew something was terribly wrong. Even though he was unable to move at that moment, I had no idea that this fall would leave him a C-4, C-5, C-6 quadriplegic. Honestly, I did not even know what that meant until it was explained to me in the emergency room.

The first few weeks were really tough. Andrew was in ICU for a couple of weeks and that was an interesting time all in itself. As a result of us only being boyfriend/girlfriend, it was not always easy to visit him because he was behind regulated doors with a strict rule of family only. I over came that obstacle soon enough because I hardly ever left the hospital and my face became very familiar. After a week had past, I got the best gift that Andrew could have ever given me, his arms moved enough to put them around me to give me a hug. He had beaten his prognosis! The feeling was overwhelming, and when I left his sight I cried. In the beginning it was very challenging for me to deal with my emotions, but like Andrew I was going to have to learn.

After three weeks Andrew was transferred to Northridge Hospital Medical Center in Northridge, California. This was a great relief for me because I had been commuting to Loma Linda hospital six times a week. Some days the drive took me three hours each way, but I had no choice. I needed to be with Andrew every step of the way. Consequently, this priority of mine forced me to not have a job and depend on my extremely supportive parents, who live 350 miles away, to financially support me. I was so blessed to have such a wonderful support system.

Now that Andrew was at Northridge Hospital, the real therapy began. We had to start with the basics in occupational therapy: learning to feed himself, brush his teeth, take a drink of water, etc. Until he learned how to do it on his own, I was usually the one to help him along the way. I am not saying no one else was there; he was just nicer to me when I helped him than he was to the others. I can only imagine how frustrating it must be to depend on others for EVERYTHING, and not having things done the way that you would want them done the majority of the time.

Andrew also went to physical therapy, recreational therapy, and group therapy to learn how to manage his disability. I accompanied him the majority of the time, but the most interesting sessions for me were the informational meetings usually lead by a nurse. These meetings/classes opened my eyes and began to teach me how to take care of Andrew’s needs when he would be able to go home. They taught me about bowel/bladder care, pressure sores, nutrition, the importance of scheduling, and even about sexual activity. Those meetings made me realize that knowledge and communication was going to be the foundation of overcoming this obstacle in our life.

A few weeks before Andrew was released from the hospital, I moved in with his family in Santa Clarita because we had nowhere else to go. Luckily he has an amazing family and they converted the garage into an accessible room for us to live in. After three months post injury it was finally time to put our newly acquired skills to the test as Andrew was coming home!

The transition was not easy. I was going through all of this with a family that I barely knew and Andrew needed a lot of help. When you are in the hospital, everything is very accommodating and there are many qualified people to assist you. When you are at home, you need to figure out a new way to do everything. For example, how do you help someone get dressed in the morning? What is the best way to transfer from the bed to the wheelchair when the bed height is not adjustable? Bottom line is that you learn; and you get better at doing things every day. You just cannot give up.

After eight months of living at Andrew’s parents house and me being his primary care giver, it was time for us to take our first big step at regaining our independent lives. We hired someone to help Andrew during the day and I moved out in October 2005 to a small one-bedroom apartment only a couple miles away. That’s right; I had to be brave a life on my own for a while. Andrew was not ready to move out yet, and if we did not take that first leap into the independent world and make a home for us again, I do not know if we would have been strong enough to survive as a couple.

This whole situation forced me to reevaluate my life. I had not been in the working world in almost a year and I did not believe that pursuing my business career was important to me anymore. I wanted to pursue something that would be fulfilling and make me happy at the end of the day. Teaching was the answer to my puzzle, but to do that I had to go back to school for some additional classes. So in February 2006 I enrolled as a student at College of the Canyons.

April 2006 soon came and two monumental moments occurred in my life. First, the only person in the world that I believed could not keep a secret from me did. The secret was at Nicholas Canyon County Beach, Andrew purposed to me and he even had a ring hidden in his sweatshirt pocket. Of course I said yes, but you would not believe what happened next. This gloomy, rainy day seized for a moment. The clouds opened up and the sun shone down on the ocean, revealing a whale swimming by spouting water, a pod of dolphins, a seal, and pelicans flying around. It was an amazing and surreal. The second monumental moment came a couple weeks later; I landed a teaching position with Knowledge Learning Corporation. Life was on the right track.

Strangers would ask me if I was sure I wanted to devote my life to Andrew’s situation, but at no moment did I have any doubts in my mind. Andrew’s situation was mine too. We are a team and we depend on each other to be happy. There is nobody else in the world that understands me better than Andrew does, and in June 2007 we were married at a gorgeous wedding in Westlake Village, California.

Three weeks before I began teaching my first Kindergarten class Andrew and I went on our first big adventure, destination Maui, Hawaii. My best friend Rachelle was getting married there and I was in the wedding. I would not miss that day for anything in the world, so I had to be brave and plan well for a weeklong trip. Flying was very interesting. When someone in your party is in a wheelchair, you are the first ones to get on the plane and the last ones to get off, and the airlines take such great care of you.

As soon as we got back, I had to start searching for something new to plan for. After about a month of looking, I found myself involved with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I trained on their team for the 2008 Los Angeles Marathon and raised over $2,000 for their cause. Completing that goal for myself was amazing.

August of that year, Triumph Foundation was born. Andrew always wanted to find a way to give back to the SCI community. He realized that some things were harder than they had to be. Networking is key; and through his networking skills, Andrew was able to attain all the resources and information that he needed to acquire the proper equipment, medical supplies, and recreational information. Over a four-year span he had accumulated information on assistance programs, SCI magazines, various adaptive equipment companies, recreational activities, specialized exercise trainers, non-profit organizations, and a lot of other resources that we were not aware of when he first was injured. Some of this information would have impacted our lives substantially if we were only aware of what was out there when Andrew first got hurt. As a result, we compiled all this priceless information into a care basket, which also include sweets, snacks, t-shirts, and novelty items. These baskets are presented to newly injured SCI patients at Northridge hospital to not only lift spirits but also raise awareness and hopefully ease their transition into their new life.

Although Triumph Foundation helps people with SCI in many other ways and we do a lot of community outreach; our initial idea to give out the care baskets is dear to my heart. It makes me, as an able-bodied person, feel like I’m making a difference as a member of the Spinal Cord Injury Family.

Betty Skinner
Board of Directors

Providing critical leadership, vision and guidance, Triumph Foundation’s Board of Directors includes distinguished community leaders from a variety of backgrounds, including medical, legal, corporate, and public service professionals.

Providing critical leadership, vision and guidance, Triumph Foundation’s Board of Directors includes distinguished community leaders from a variety of backgrounds, including medical, legal, corporate, and public service professionals.