BOCA RATON, FL (BocaNewsNow.com) — An estimated 1000 people will participate in Boca Raton-based Stand Among Friends’ second annual walk and run at Florida Atlantic University this Sunday. But this is no ordinary run/walk. And Stand Among Friends founder, Shawn Friedkin, is no ordinary activist.
Twenty years ago Friedkin was married, had a two year old daughter and a promising future in finance. Then two weeks before his 28th birthday, he was involved in a horrific car crash which left him paralyzed from the chest down.
Friedkin says he could have spiraled down a destructive path of self-pity, but chose to not let his disability define him. In rebuilding his life, however, he realized there were few resources for people in his situation.
Frustrated, he founded in 1997 Stand Among Friends (www.standamongfriends.org). He subsequently opened acenter on FAU’s main campus to provide workforce skills for the hearing, mobility, sight and cognitive impaired. More than 600 people a year benefit.
“Through our programs, we are making a difference in the lives of thousands of people living with disabilities by helping them to live as independently as possible,” Friedkin said.
“They help people get real jobs,” said Boca Home Care CEO Joseph Bensmihen, a member of the SAF board. “’They teach the skills to be employable.”
The center also makes employers aware of the ability of the so-called disabled. And Friedkin personally advocatesresearch for breakthrough medical discoveries, including spinal injuries.
The SAF “emb(race)” event this year will feature a 5K, 10K and one-mile family walk and is open to people of all ages and abilities. More than 1,200 people witnessed almost 800 entrants participate in the 2011 inaugural event, andFriedkin believes 1,000 will participate this year.
Organizers are calling the event an emb(race), to “embrace” and not segregate individuals with disabilities. Whether participants run, walk, stroll, roll, use a wheelchair or hand cycle, anyone is welcome to enter.Registration is available on line.
There will be games for children, live music, food, prizes, raffles, awards and many other fun activities. Net proceeds will benefit Stand Among Friends. FAU President Mary Jane Saunders is the honorary event chair. There are close to 40 event sponsors including FAU, Boca Home Care, and the E.M. Lynn Foundation.
(Photo: Boca Raton’s Shawn Friedken).