SCIO Community Magazine
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Our Heritage

We are a community because, at one time not too long ago, there was almost no support for people with spinal cord injury in this country. When our founders returned to Ontario from the Second World War, having sustained spinal cord injuries, they came together to build a community to improve medical care, rehabilitation and opportunities to live independently. In 1945, they formed the Canadian Paraplegic Association, out of which grew Spinal Cord Injury Ontario (SCIO) and a network of autonomous SCI organizations across the country.

John CounsellHeaded by founders John Counsell, who fought and was injured at Dieppe, and Al Jousse, we partnered with medical leaders in SCI and the newly established Department of Veteran Affairs to establish Lyndhurst Lodge, a community-based rehab centre located on Lyndhurst Avenue in Toronto. Counsell then brought the first folding, self-propelled wheelchair to Canada, causing a revolution in mobility. (In fact, he ordered 150 chairs from California-based Everest & Jennings and, thanks to Board member Conn Smythe, stored them in Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto.) Other founders who worked with John Counsell, Al Jousse and Conn Smythe were Ken Langford, Andy Clark and LM Wood.

Over the next few decades, equipment innovations, strong advocacy and improvements in rehabilitation advanced the rights and living conditions of people with SCI. In 1974, Lyndhurst Lodge was left behind and Lyndhurst Centre opened on Sutherland Drive, the first and only hospital in Canada for the rehabilitation of patients with spinal cord injury. It was regarded as a model for the nation and the world. Today, the site is part of the University Health Network’s Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and home to SCIO’s provincial offices.

Rick HansonThe 1980s and 90s saw advances in employment, housing access and attendant services in the Toronto Region, with SCIO actively engaged in all initiatives and offering its own programming at the Lyndhurst Centre, one of five Toronto Rehab sites. Rick Hansen launched the “Man in Motion Tour” in 1985 with our support, drawing much-needed attention to spinal cord injury. And in 1996, the first pilot Wheelchair Relay Challenge was organized in Ottawa. Wheelchair Relay Challenges were SCIO’s signature fundraising events for many years.

We’ve grown to have a powerful presence across the province with staff in 13 locations, supporting people with SCI and their families with regional service co-ordination, peer mentorship, health care partnerships, access to information and resources, SCI research and advocacy to improve the landscape in all areas relating to accessibility and disability. Along with our extended community of volunteers, clients, family members, donors and partners in government, business and health care, we are honoured to carry forth our founders’ tradition of innovation and action every day in Ontario, as we work for and with people with SCI to live the life they choose.

Thank you for your part in that vision.


Read more about our revolutionary heritage here!

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