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Start Your Year with These 10 Stories of Hope

2020 was surprising, overwhelming, and exhausting—especially for individuals facing a catastrophic injury or illness. One of the joys of our nonprofit’s work in medical fundraising is getting to witness and celebrate hopeful moments, including the sparks of hope that allowed us to call 2020 “not-all-bad.”

Here are 10 memorable milestones from the end of 2020, from fundraising successes to regained movement after injury.

Community Support in a Time of Need

Many families don’t know our nonprofit exists until they find themselves thrust into an unexpected medical crisis. Our client Ernest Patti was just a week into his freshman year at college when a swimming trip with his roommates turned into trauma.

Ernie was knocked off his feet by a wave and found himself unable to move. He was rushed into emergency spinal surgery and diagnosed with a spinal cord injury.

Ernie’s family friends and community quickly realized the immense financial burden facing his family. First-year costs after a spinal cord injury can top $700,000 for Ernie’s level of injury, even with help from insurance. They mobilized their community of support and started a fundraising campaign with Help Hope Live to assist with Ernie’s recovery, including the cost of home modifications, an accessible vehicle, caregiving, education adaptations, and exercise-based rehabilitation.

The community’s response was incredible.

Ernie’s community raised $29,000 in 24 hours. The total increased to $80,000 within the first 72 hours. Less than one month later, the campaign has surpassed $231,600 raised.

Another epic fundraising journey we followed in 2020 was Dianne “Vitty” Vitkus, a 28-year-old who sustained a C6 spinal cord injury during a climbing accident.

Dianne’s community came together to offer hope and financial help through a Help Hope Live fundraising campaign. SCI-related costs that insurance won’t cover completely include home modifications, an accessible vehicle, home health care, and ongoing exercise-based rehabilitation.

Dianne’s campaign has surpassed $186,000 raised toward her initial $200,000 goal in a few short months.

Follow more of “Vitty’s Voyage” on Instagram.

Hope for COVID-19 Survivors

In April, we extended our fundraising campaign support to two new patient groups: individuals living with cancer and individuals living with a positive COVID-19 diagnosis.

At the end of 2020, we helped to mobilize support for 62-year-old James Telschik, a COVID-19 survivor awaiting a life-saving double lung transplant. Once transplanted, James will be one of only 12 people in the United States to receive new lungs due to COVID-19.

A double lung transplant can cost $1.3 million or more before insurance. With a boost from press coverage over Christmas, James’s Help Hope Live campaign has surpassed $7,500 raised toward his initial $50,000 goal. The campaign will help James and his family to cover transplant-related costs including co-pays, temporary housing and relocation, medical travel, and caregiving.

New Wheels for a Family of Fighters

Sometimes, the simplest updates are the most powerful. We think this update from the family of 7-year-old rare disease fighter Alexa Linthicum speaks for itself:

Epic Surprises for Two Special Kids

Partnering with the Philadelphia Flyers and Freedom Mobility, we hand-delivered two accessible, customized bicycles to two special kids in 2020: 12-year-old Jackson Epstein, who is living with muscular dystrophy, and 5-year-old Lucy Brooks, who is living with cerebral palsy.

We’ll never forget their fantastic reactions to our Flyers-themed surprise.

Both Jackson and Lucy’s communities are continuing to fundraise with Help Hope Live to bring ongoing medical care and life-changing equipment within reach.

Regained Movement and More

You may remember hearing about our client Boden Miller, a young teen who sustained a spinal cord injury while playing on a trampoline. In September, we received a jaw-dropping update from Boden’s family:

It seems like every time we draft an illness and injury milestone post, we have a reason to include our client Josh Ziner. Living with a spinal cord injury since 2017, the 28-year-old highlights the ins and outs of his recovery journey and daily life on Facebook with 2,400 followers.

This month, we got to witness what his mother Michelle called “another miracle”: three years post-injury, Josh is regaining movement in his legs and feet.

Finding Gratitude and Giving Back

It is meaningful to find reasons to reflect and feel grateful at the end of any year. For many families, that gratitude was even harder to come by at the close of 2020. We appreciate this grateful reflection from our Brand Ambassador Kristen Sachs, wife and caregiver of client Jeff Sachs:

Be sure to follow Kristen’s blog about life as an SCI caregiver at

As they begin their fundraising journeys, many families express a common goal: to be able to help provide for the needs of others once their own needs are met.

We loved seeing clients and influencers of all kinds find ways to turn 2020 into a more hopeful year for others. Among them was our client Cole Sydnor of Roll with Cole & Charisma, who partnered with Sportable of Richmond to provide a $20,000 matching gift for the all-new Adaptive Athlete Support Fund.

Dear 2021: Hope is (Still) Not Cancelled

Whether you’re starting 2021 feeling hopeful, grateful, overwhelmed, or barely-hanging-on, even small moments can serve as reminders that day after day, hope finds a way.

If you’d like to be part of the hopeful journeys of thousands of families experiencing a medical crisis, please consider kicking off your new year with a donation to Help Hope Live. Every gift makes a difference to our ability to connect individuals with compassionate, trusted, and often life-altering community support.

A collection of Help Hope Live client images. Written by Emily Progin