Employment Assistance

Employment Assistance

Triumph Foundation's Employment Assistance Program helps people with spinal cord injury (SCI) obtain and retain employment and maximize their ability to live independently. Triumph’s vocational rehabilitation team work closely with job seekers to establish the best combination of services and resources necessary to prepare for, find, retain, and advance in employment. Our services are tailored to each individual’s strengths and challenges to ensure the greatest chance of success.

Services offered include, but are not limited to: consultation, resume development, advocacy, information and referral, peer support, education, transition, and navigating insurance plans once employed.

Unemployment remains a prevalent and serious problem for persons with SCI, which is especially disturbing considering evidence that vocational outcomes affect both quality of life and longevity. Low employment rates after rehabilitation are cause for concern since return to gainful employment may be the most recognized primary marker of successful rehabilitation outcome after disability.

But still, many in the SCI community face disproportional challenges in securing stable employment. It is estimated that there are 20,000 new cases of SCI every year in the United States. Approximately 60% of cases occurred in people 16 to 30 years of age, corresponding to the developmental periods associated with career development and establishment. Ten years after injury, 32.4% of persons with paraplegia were employed, whereas only 24.2% of those with tetraplegia were employed at that time. Compared with the general population, unemployment rates in the SCI population have been reported in excess of 10-fold.

Triumph Foundation's goal is to help people with SCI reintegrate back into the community.  Finding employment is a major step towards rebuilding & living a purposeful life.

For advice and counseling contact: [email protected]

Resources to help people with disabilities enter into the workforce.

In addition, Triumph also provides funds to assist with efforts to return to work or gain employment advancement through our Employment Achievement Award.

Employment Achievement Award

Triumph Foundation's Employment Achievement Award provides people with SCI financial assistance to achieve more success with current employer, for a license/product/equipment that will enable work, start a business, and/or increase their workplace success.

Email [email protected] for an application. Include a brief description of your intentions for the Employment Award.

The goal is to help people become productive members of the community after a paralyzing accident.


  • If you had a job before your accident that is waiting for you, how will the funding help? How will the money be used to remove barriers that are preventing your return to the workforce?
  • If you are seeking to open a business, what is the basic plan? How soon do you expect to earn income and generate revenue?
  • If you are seeking a job, what kind of employment are you looking for? What is your background, education, and expertise?
  • If you are currently employed, how will this award help you be more successful?
  • How will this award help you reach your goals and accomplish your aim to gainful employment?

Contestant Qualifications:

  1. Person with a spinal cord injury.
  2. Supply proof of income and corresponding financial constraint.
  3. Contestant shall agree and consent to, participate in as well as use their likeness in Triumph Foundation communications and promotions related to the Employment Achievement Award.

Application Instructions:

Email [email protected] for an application.


What is the Employment Achievement Award?

Triumph Foundation's Employment Achievement Award will give up to $5,000 to someone within the paralysis community to help them with their vocational pursuits.

What is the purpose?

We want to be a job creator, helping people put their talents to work and achieve their employment goals.

Who can apply?

Applicants must be a California resident with a spinal cord injury and available to personally receive the award at a ceremony.

I currently have a job. Can I still participate in the contest?

Yes. The funds can be used towards achieving more success at your current job.

How to apply?

Email [email protected] for an application. Include a brief description of your intentions for the Employment Award.

What is asked in the application?

We want to hear your story, and a business plan with a detailed budget describing how the funds will be used to enable you to become gainfully employed.

How do I submit my application?

Submissions must be emailed to [email protected] as an attachment with the email subject line: "[Your Name] Employment Achievement Award"

When is the submission deadline?

Applications due May 12, 2023.

Who do I contact if I have any questions?

Contact [email protected] if you have any other questions.



Our Employment Achievement award had its genesis in 2015 launched as the Bill Hollman Return to Work Award.  Triumph Foundation received an endowment of $5,000 from the family of Bill Hollman to be award for the purpose of helping a person with a SCI to return to work by obtaining a job or generating revenue through some entrepreneurial venture. Bill Hollman became a C6/C7 quadriplegic in 1995 from an automobile accident. After extensive rehabilitation, he reemerged into the business world and went on to enjoy many successes in real estate. Bill passed away on January 7, 2013 and to honor his legacy his family desires to help others like Bill who aspire to return to work after injury.  Rebranded as the Employment Achievement Award in 2018, Triumph expanded the program to help those who currently work, but need assistance to be more successful.

Previous Winners

2023 Award Winner: Nitra Turner

Despite facing a mountain of challenges every day since being injured in street violence, she's learned to live life to the fullest despite her paralysis.

Through the relationships she's built through Triumph Foundation, she's found a new community where she feels included and inspired. We were so stoked to award Nitra with our Employment Achievement Award, which helped her start her own notary public business. She was over the moon when she found out, and we were so proud to see her smile.

2022 Award Winner: Margarita Elizondo

We awarded Margarita Elizondo with the Employment Achievement Award to support her as she develops an awareness program for schools that helps educate young people on disability issues and promotes the importance of diversity and inclusion in schools and organizations.The training program, entitled “I Am All In Dance & Play,” is a fun package of curriculum and teacher training that teachers and students love. The award will enable Margarita to publish five new children's books to add to her “Rolling With Me & Friends” series bringing the total to ten books!

Margarita's efforts directly support Triumph's effort to build an Inclusive Community, the 5th segment in our Circle of Care program cycle. Her work will increase awareness of the disabled population and provide opportunities for interaction and deeper understanding.

You can learn more about Margarita's education program at rollingwithme.org

2021 Award Winner: Tom Finch

Tom was in a motorcycle accident and suffered T12 spinal cord injury. His family and friends rallied around him early on. This helped him push through the obstacles to recover and reinvent himself.

Tom is a welder and fabricator by trade. Much of his previous work was for the entertainment and theme park industries If you have a favorite ride at Disneyland, he may have had a part in bringing that dream to life.

With his new-found understanding of wheelchairs and the needs of people like himself, he began customizing wheelchairs that fit people better and help them achieve their dreams. Tom lives in Tehachapi and does his work under an outdoor awning that's wide open to some of California's most extreme temperatures - icy cold or blazing heat.

So to help Tom achieve his small-business dreams of building and repairing custom wheelchairs he created Finch Adaptive Fabrication, and Triumph approved him for our Employment Achievement Award. The award enabled him to enclose his shop from the elements, purchase new equipment, and upgrade the infrastructure needed to serve more of his customers.

2020 Award Winner: Tyler Schrenk

We like to think of all of our grant recipients as superheroes in their own right. In the case of Tyler Schrenk, it's really true.

After Tyler's C-4 spinal cord injury left him paralyzed from the neck down, assistive technology gave him control of his care, surroundings, and future. Tyler became so passionate about assistive technologies, he felt a calling to help others understand their options and use technology to improve their lives.

Tyler submitted an Employment Achievement Award request to help him take his assistive technology consulting business up a notch. Today, he's reaching more people with encouragement and insider know-how that makes a huge difference for everyone. Thanks Tyler!

For more information visit The Tyler Schrenk Foundation.

2019 Award Winner: Jessica Brito

Jessica has long been a leader in our SCI community as a peer mentor. She has been working in the field of mental health since 2014 helping a diverse population.

Jessica recently became a licensed clinical social worker and desired to start her own private practice specializing in life transitions. With the Employment Achievement Award, Triumph helped her establish her LLC with the State, and provided some of her necessary start up costs.

Jessica provides people with coping strategies to live in the present while being mindful of the future and accepting of the past. We're proud to refer people to her new business, helping even more people triumph over their personal obstacles.

For more information visit her website: TakeControlTherapy.com

2018 Award Winner: Derek Herrera

Derek suffered a spinal cord injury while serving in Afghanistan as a Marine Officer. In 2012, he deployed to Afghanistan and was shot and paralyzed by enemy small arms fire during combat operations. Derek is now a paraplegic. He continued serving his country as a Marine until 2014, then earned his Masters degree at UCLA with a certificate in Entrepreneurship.
Derek is now the Founder and CTO of Spinal Singularity. Spinal Singularity has been developing the Connected Catheter, the first fully internal, smart catheter system for adult males with Urinary Retention. This medical device company will greatly improve the lives of patients with Spinal Injury.
The Employment Award Funds granted to Derek will help Spinal Singularity for their upcoming clinical trials. To learn more about the device and how you can support Derek, visit: www.SpinalSingularity.com or www.DerekHerrera.com

2018 Award Winner: Giselle Friedman 

On November 20, 2015, Giselle was on top of her game, working as a social worker and living a happy healthy life enjoying hiking, dancing and friends. That night, she fell out of bed - something so simple that has happened to all of us - but she tragically broke her C4 & C5 vertebrae in her neck, damaging her spinal cord becoming a quadriplegic. Her life traumatically changed in an instant. Not long after, we met her at our annual Christmas Outreach party at Northridge Hospital. We gave her a Care Basket full of resources and goodies- but it was more than that - it was her first hope for a life beyond injury.

Giselle made great strides in her recovery. Through grit, determination and hard work in physical therapy, she regained the ability to walk! However, she still faced significant limits to her activities of daily living and faced a crisis of employment as well. During her rehabilitation, she was unable to work and struggled to make ends meet. When she was ready to return to her job, Giselle required accommodations that her employer, the Los Angeles Unified School District, was unable to provide.

Recognizing her needs and great potential, Triumph gave her our Employment Achievement Award to help Giselle launch a private family counseling practice to continue the work that she loves. Her story of injury, recovery, and returning to contribute her talents to the community - Giselle represents a “grand slam” in terms of outcomes. We are proud to have played a role in her journey and triumph.

2017 Award Winner: Rob Balucas

2015 was a shaping up to be a breakout year for Rob. He had a thriving website design and marketing agency, babaLucas Creative, he fulfilled his dream to live in San Francisco, and was in the best shape of his life preparing for his first Ironman Race. Then in September, on a routine training bicycle ride, things took a drastic change. He lost control of his bike and crashed suffering a L1 burst fracture to his spine that left him paralyzed. However, that's not the end of his story, it's only the beginning.  He is determined to reclaim his life, and your gifts are helping him do it! 

He submitted his business plan and was chosen to receive the $5,000 Employment Achievement Award. These funds will help him reignite his business, hire employees, and purchase necessary software to get his career and life back on track. 

2016 Award Winner: Bardo Ramos

The winner of Triumph Foundation's 2016 Bill Hollman Return to Work Award is Bardo Ramos. In 2002 he and a group of friends were targeted in a drive by shooting that left 1 dead and Bardo shot 4 times. One of the bullets struck him in the neck and he sustained a C-5, 6, 7 spinal cord injury. He struggled coming to terms with his paralysis until he met a wonderful woman named Blanca that motivated him to go back to school and earn a Masters degree in Social Work.

Shortly after he got a job at the Department of Veterans Affairs in West Los Angeles. He was making a great impact with all the staff and the veterans from different war eras. In a way, having a physical disability gave him the ability to really connect with the veterans. However, his job required him to push his wheelchair between multiple domiciliary houses to serve 300 veterans located up and down long and strenuous ramps that lead into the buildings. This led to him straining his shoulders and being fatigued. He applied for power assist wheels to help him be more successful at work and better serve our nation's heroes. We are proud to announce that Bardo won our essay contest and your support got him the wheels that are necessary to propel his career forward.

2015 Award Winner: Austin Whitney

Austin Whitney won the Bill Hollman Return to Work Award in 2015 to help him build his business, Accessible Festivals. Watch the testimonial video on how he was enabled to follow his dreams and make a positive impact on the entire disabled community with the $5,000 investment. Triumph is very proud to say we had a small part in helping Austin and the important work he does with www.AccessibleFestivals.com