Tag Archives: disability videos

SCI Superstar: Cody Unser

What would you do if at 12 years old you found yourself with a pounding headache that came out of nowhere while you were on the basketball court with friends, and the next thing you knew, you were lying on your back in the locker room with your legs going numb?

That’s what happened to Cody Unser, the daughter of legendary Indy racer Al Unser Jr. Now 26, Cody is the face of the Cody Unser First Step Foundation, has lobbied for spinal cord injury research extensively in Washington, DC. and is the leading proponent of diving for people with spinal cord injuries, as a way to restore nerve function (which is something Cody discovered herself after her injury).

Why she’s fearless

What Cody’s done after her spinal cord injury (which was caused by Tranverse Myelitis btw; a neurological syndrome that can be caused by viral infections) is certainly blog worthy, let alone Hollywood worthy (her story has already been made into a documentary, Cody: The First Step).

With the help of her family, she’s been able to do several awesome things after injury, one of the most transformative for her has been scuba diving.  She loves scuba so much she began to schedule group diving events for people with disabilities, which she still does today.

But amazingly, when Cody first began diving, she noticed she could feel more in areas of her body that were numb before, as well as move a little bit more below her injury.

Although the affects only lasted a week after the  dive, Cody knew she was on to something, so she put together a team of researchers (with the help of the Christopher and Dana Reeve foundation) to conduct a one-time study.

They brought several people with spinal cord injuries out diving and nearly everyone reported the same results (read more about this here). I love that Cody is using her top-tier contacts to help make a difference for not only herself, but for others in the same boat.

And Cody has also raced cars after her injury (kind of hard to avoid when your dad is a former NASCAR driver). In 2007, Cody raced at the Redi Auto Track Challenge using Soft Touch hand controls. And when she’s not racing, Cody drives an Audi A3 (gotta love those Audi’s).

What’s next?

Cody was honored in 2012 by the Red Cross for her foundation’s pioneering scuba study, and they have several  scuba events planned. If interested in seeing if diving can do the same things for you, make sure to check out her site or like the foundation on Facebook.

There’s so much more to Cody than a pretty face and her famous last name. She is resilient, determined and almost as fierce as a F1 series racecar.

What do you love most about Cody? Have you gone scuba diving post-injury?

Watch the videos!

– Cody Unser Interview @ 2009 Orlando Film Festival

Cody Unser & The PVA – 16×9 Films – Fallbrook Digital Studios

SCI Superstar: Zack Weinstein

Are you a fan of Glee?  If so, you may already be familiar with Zack Weinstein.  He’s the only person with paralysis in real life to be on the hit TV show Glee yet, and he’s slowly been making a name for himself in Hollywood since.

Zack always knew he wanted to be an actor. We all know how a crazy accident can totally sent us off course, but Zach refused to let that happen.  Despite an injury that could’ve made him change his entire life, Zach couldn’t let his passion go.

Why he’s fearless

After only one year into his schooling at Skidmore college, studying theater arts, Zach found himself lying in a nearby river with a broken neck at the C4-6 level.  He broke his neck canoeing in Maine with some friends.  Despite taking a one year break from college to figure out how to live as a quadriplegic, Zach went right back into college afterwards, and refused to change his major.

Zach said that some of his professors tried to get him to change his major after his accident.  Maybe they didn’t outrightly tell him that acting wouldn’t be of great long-term goal, but in so many words they did by simply suggesting he try directing instead. But what’s great about Zach is that he refused to take any of their advice seriously.

He spoke the truth: “I can still talk and express emotions,” so he wasn’t about to put all that on the back burner and become a director because he was paralyzed.  What makes Zach so tough is that he stuck with his original life passion even though his injury made it all whole lot more difficult to pursue.

After graduating from college, Zach moved to LA to put his career in high gear.  He moved into an apartment literally directly across the street from universal studios along with his wife, to pursue his dreams of making it big.

And he’s been working hard to get cast in as many things as possible.  After being cast in a Buy.com commercial a few years ago, he was able to find an agent.  This agent is the reason he got his big break – landing a speaking role in Glee in 2009.  He played a fellow student who was paralyzed and received rave reviews for his performance.

What’s next?

Zach keeps plugging away, getting more jobs in Hollywood.  Other than landing a role on Glee, he’s been on NCIS and Criminal Minds.  Sure, he’s playing a guy in a wheelchair in these roles, usually a guy with SCI, but he’s getting parts, and for a guy who uses a wheelchair in Hollywood? That’s a big deal.

Zach is also an official ambassador for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which is one of the highest honors you can have within this organization. Go Zack, you def make an inspiring ambassador!

Did you watch Zach on Glee?  What other roles you think people in wheelchairs, like Zack, should be considered for?

Watch the videos!

–  Back In Life (14 min documentary on Zach’s story)

–  Glee Actors at Media Access Awards (interview with Zach)