The idea for Beyond the Teams was birthed when the organization’s chairman, Mike Charbonnet, undertook a fundraising bike ride last August to benefit a deeply personal cause. His son, David, a former SEAL himself who broke his back parachuting in 2011, is paralyzed below mid-abdomen. Today, he is not only a patient but CEO of VIP NeuroRehabilitation Center in San Diego. Charbonnet’s bike ride last summer, just him going from San Francisco to San Diego, was to raise money for VIP.
Mike talked at his BUD/S Class 98 reunion about how fun and fulfilling that bike ride was. He invited the guys to join him in something similar to it … and they dove in enthusiastically. Except they quickly realized their vision was bigger than just another one-off bike ride. They wanted to create a fundraising nonprofit because America has given them much, they believe, and they see it as their duty to give something back.
For their first deployment as a team, they are returning to VIP NeuroRehabilitation Hospital – with a 1,000-mile ride down the East Coast of the U.S. from Oct. 29 to Nov. 9. David Charbonnet will take part in piloting a hand cycle.
VIP is a nonprofit center that provides physical therapy, educates patients and families regarding neurological conditions and supplies resources about nutrition, stress reduction and the benefits of exercise. It’s one of Southern California’s leaders in neurorehabilitation therapy, challenging patients 4 years old and up physically in a supportive and caring environment. Its mission is to bring top quality outpatient neuro-rehabilitation care to disabled military, veterans, children and to all who are in need, focusing on those who have difficulty moving due to stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain injury, cerebral palsy, spinal cord injury or multiple traumas.
The money raised will be used for patient scholarships and state-of-the-art equipment to help with the clinic’s life-changing work. Many people don’t realize that insurance only covers so many visits for those who need the care the center offers, and treatment and rehabilitation can cost upwards of $125 an hour. Dozens of patients need ongoing treatment — and insurance is no longer an option for them.
Another often overlooked truth is that every veteran does not have full benefits. Coverage can be hard to come by for those with less service time. Even some who have insurance are not customarily treated by most providers the way they can be treated at VIP. The VA’s approach to treatment is to help patients with neuromuscular diseases and injuries to adapt to life in a wheelchair. VIP’s aim is to treat them to live more independently.
So the “little” improvements VIP delivers make radical changes in patients’ lives — everything from increased grip strength to increased flexibility and mobility. Many of these improvements come courtesy of life-changing equipment like the LocoMat, State-of-the-art both in terms of creating and monitoring movement, the machine — think high-tech treadmill that moves a patient’s legs and records neural function — helps create biofeedback in the brain that aids recovery. VIP has one LocoMat but could use a second. No other equipment offers the rehabilitation benefits of the LocoMat, and for that reason, time is at a premium. A second machine would double the rehab time for the patients most in need of it.
The team’s hope is to raise the money for another and pay the costs of patients in need, with the bike ride. It’s the least they feel they can do for their fellow Americans.