In 2006, Janne Kouri was an avid athlete and a successful businessman, playing in a beach volleyball tournament in California. Taking a break between rounds, Janne decided to go for a swim. He dove into the waves like he had hundreds of times before, and his life changed forever. Janne’s head struck a sandbar beneath the waves, he broke his C5 & C6 vertebrae, and was instantly paralyzed from the waist down. For many people, that would be the end of the story. For Janne, it was just the beginning.
After months in the ICU, Janne began the long road to recovery. He traveled with his then girlfriend, now wife, Susan, from CA to Frazier Rehab in Louisville, KY, to participate in a cutting-edge rehabilitation therapy called "Locomotor Training." He saw great improvement in muscle strength, movement and general health, but eventually he and Susan had to head back to CA. This was when Janne realized that there weren’t any facilities in CA, or in the U.S. for that matter, that offered Locomotor Training. So, with the help of family and friends, Janne and Susan started NextStep—an internationally recognized non-profit that makes life-changing rehab and fitness accessible and affordable to individuals living with paralysis.
To draw attention to this cause, he did what anyone would do: started the Ride For Paralysis, and decided to ride his wheelchair across the country. “The idea of riding my wheelchair from L.A. to D.C. is both exhilarating and terrifying,” said Janne. “The journey will be a true test of endurance, strength and camaraderie, but we will have a lot of fun along the way. I am looking forward to the unknown, the daily challenges, meeting new people and experiencing this amazing country from such a unique perspective.”
One of our co-founders, Ian, is Janne’s long-time friend, so his inspiring action came as no surprise to us. “I couldn’t be prouder to support Janne,” said Ian. “He’s all the things we wish we could be—kind, strong, determined and loyal. He inspires me to do more with less and raise those up around me. After all, that’s what he’s always done. I’m lucky to have been friends with Janne for over three decades. Like so many other crazy adventures we’ve been on, this is just one more example of his quiet leadership and inspiring actions.”
Best of luck, Janne. We’ll be with you along the way.