Kenny Salvini and nearly 30 other wheelchair users gather under one roof sharing over 355 years of experience living with paralysis. The conversions collected in this moment are nothing short of life changing for many wheelchair users in the Pacific Northwest.
Several times a year throughout Western Washington, Kenny and the Here and Now Project organizes social gatherings for people living with paralysis. At a typical gathering, whether it be a gymnasium or a pub, you will hear, “Hey, I’m Kenny. I’m a C3-4 injury for 17 years. And this is my family.” The focus of these meetups is to share stories, advice, knowledge, and most importantly to encourage each other to “Do Life”.
Who is Kenny Salvini?
Kenny Salvini has dedicated himself to being a beacon of positivity for people with disabilities across the Pacific Northwest through his nonprofit The Here and Now Project. Kenny is a deeply passionate and active advocate for wheelchair users through his organization, but as a whole, Kenny’s advocacy extends to the disability community worldwide. Kenny is a husband, a father, an advocate, and a traveler, all while living with quadriplegia.
A little bit over 17 years ago in April, 2004, in a snow skiing accident, Kenny fell about 40 feet onto his head and broke his neck at the C3-4 vertebrae. Kenny now advocates and speaks out about what it’s like to live with a disability, what it’s like to live with a spinal cord injury with the hope of bringing awareness and helping people who are newly injured to get back to “Doing Life” again.
What is The Here and Now Project?
It all began at a barbecue years after Kenny was injured. Kenny and his friends, Todd Stoblefeldt and Ian McKay were hanging out and discussing assistive technologies. Kenny recalls, “telling our stories and then suddenly I heard my story come out of six other guy’s mouths. And that was the inception of the Here and Now project.” Kenny found his community and knew others needed this connection too.
For years after his accident, Kenny mostly stayed at home. He says, “It wasn’t until I made one connection with another quadriplegic that it took me from the guy who didn’t want to go anywhere and didn’t want to meet anyone to now I am chasing people”, helping others navigate life as a wheelchair user. Kenny allowed himself to learn from others, and grow into “doing life in the here and now.” This is the mission of the Here and Now Project, connecting and empowering the paralysis community in the Pacific Northwest. Through small support groups, community activities, and larger annual gatherings, they have built a fellowship that encourages and inspires each other to “Do Life” in the here and now.
When asked about what The Here and Now project does, Kenny says, “We connect with people, but it’s just finding out that you don’t have to do anything by yourself. You know, I was really stuck inside that narrative in between my ears after I was injured, that I was the only person going through something like this.” Kenny has worked hard in building a community for wheelchair users and he makes it clear that people don’t need “to do it alone, regardless of what they’re going through.”
How does The Here and Now Help Wheelchair Users in the PNW?
The power of community and sharing each other’s stories is rooted in the mission of The Here and Now Project. Kenny believes stories can “change someone’s life. It can save someone’s life.” Stories can give empathy, stories can build comradery, and stories can even provide solutions. The Here and Now project exemplifies the power of connection and the strength of this community.
A community constructed of members with similar experiences and in similar situations brings a wealth of knowledge of strategies and the best technology available, enriching lives and promoting further independence. Kenny says, “That’s why we call it The Here and Now, because so many people are focused on the cure, and you can chase those ghosts, you know, overall fixes for a lifetime. But we also need to focus on what’s going on today, and find those solutions as real life, tangible solutions to what we’ve got going on right now.” Sharing experiences and knowledge of technologies is intertwined in the community of The Here and Now Project. The Here and Now meetups allow members to share what works for them in hopes of helping someone else.
Beyond the physical difficulties of navigating life with paralysis, the lack of positive disability representation causes people who are disabled to feel alone, without value, as well as, without purpose. This is something that Kenny and The Here and Now Project are up against; Kenny’s vision is to create representation for each other, “That’s something that I think we see, you know, at every one of our get-togethers. Whether you’re newly injured, or, you know, you’re a new member.” Having someone to share experience with and to see parallels in how they navigate life is extremely valuable for every person with a disability.
Acquiring a disability can be daunting and isolating, but community can bring empathy and accessibility solutions. The Hear and Now Project provides a community of empathy to empower those living with paralysis to “Do Life”.
Get involved with The Here and Now, right here, right now! Donate to The Here and Now so this community can continue to reach others in the Pacific Northwest!
Listen to Kenny Salvini’s full interview on the Spark Access Podcast below. We talk about his life as a husband, a father, an advocate, and a traveler, all while living with quadriplegia. Kenny has dedicated himself to being a beacon of positivity for many wheelchair users.