Justin Cochran may be disabled from the neck down, but that has not stopped him from skydiving, parasailing, hiking or organizing a golf tournament.
The Fourth Annual Justin Cochran Spinal Cord Injury Foundation Golf Tournament is set to tee off at Egwani Farms Golf Course June 17. The tourney is one of the foundation’s biggest fund-raisers that help raise awareness for people with spinal injuries.
Formed four years ago, the foundation began as a way to educate, encourage and inspire people affected with disabilities. It was created after avid explorer and daredevil Justin Cochran suffered an injury at a family reunion. Doing a back handspring for his cousins at a family reunion, he miscalculated and landed directly on his head, suffering a C1-C2 fracture. The accident paralyzed him from the neck down and made him dependent on a ventilator.
Though the injuries confine him to a wheelchair he has continued college at Atlanta and he has spoken to the Georgia Legislature on behalf of disabled people.
According to a story written by Shari Gorman on the Justin Cochran Spinal Cord Foundation website, months after he was released from a hospital in Atlanta, Cochran was enrolled in college and fighting for the rights of all people with disabilities. “He has given testimony before House and Senate Committees at the State Capitol in Atlanta in an effort to get people with disabilities get out of nursing homes and living independently in the community. He serves on the Distribution and Public Policy Committee of the Brain and Spinal Cord Injury Trust Fund, and he frequently visits newly injured patients at Shepherd Center to give them hope and inspiration. He is also involved in Partners in Policymaking, an advocacy group for individuals with developmental disabilities.
“Justin is smart, charismatic and determined to make the most of what life has to offer. He has managed to go skydiving and hang gliding again since his accident. He arranged for a group of individuals with varying disabilities from all over Georgia to travel to Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga to experience the thrill of hang gliding as well. He is the inspiration for the Justin Cochran Spinal Cord Injury Foundation.”
Cochran shared his thoughts about forming the foundation in a message on his website,
“One of the biggest obstacles my family and I faced after being discharged from the hospital was locating and taking advantage of the various products, services, and programs available. We would hear of one program here and a service there and then get a tip to help with this or that by talking to people living with a similar disability, but then have no idea how to go about getting that service or program because we only had a part of the solution. My family and I were left to fill in the gaps ourselves. The whole process took an incredible amount of time, effort, and patience as each person we talked to had not the solution, but rather another puzzle piece to put with the others. It's as if families of and persons with a spinal cord injury don't already have enough to deal with, they also have to learn like circus tigers how to jump through hoops to get the resources they need. Nobody can overcome the incredible adversity of a spinal cord injury alone. I know I would be nothing and nowhere if it weren't for my family and friends’ support. There's no point in each of us reinventing the wheel every time we need to do something or go somewhere. Our goal here at the foundation is to provide you with the tools and resources needed for success, and the “SCI Resources” section, although not all-encompassing, will provide you with a wealth of important knowledge and resources toward that end.
“Please write to us if you have any questions or concerns not addressed by this section as there are many more resources out there than what we're able to publish on the site. In the same light, we would greatly appreciate any input concerning information or resources which might be helpful to our community.”
According to the website, the mission of the foundation is to educate, encourage, and inspire those affected by spinal cord injuries by providing information and resources to aid spinal cord injury survivors, their family and caregivers on how to live a healthy and active lifestyle after an injury.
The foundation may be contacted at JCSCI Foundation, Inc., P.O.Box 32654, Knoxville, TN 37930 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. To make a donation to JCSCI send your check or money order to the foundation contact information listed above. Make checks payable to The JCSCI Foundation. If you have a question or unusual type of donation contact us by email at email@example.com
This year’s tournament will be similar to last year’s tournament, said Mike Cochran, Justin Cochran’s dad. There will be 18 holes that allow for individual or teams of four to compete in. “It’s a fun (and) good quality tournament,” he said.
Registration is still ongoing and will continue until 7 a.m. the day of the tournament and the shotgun start will be at 8:30 a.m.
Every participant will receive a gift bag that contains umbrellas, towels and ball bags. Mike Cochran also said breakfast and lunch will be served to each player. There are prizes that will be awarded to any player who sinks a hole-in-one at the par-three holes. The prizes are a Toyota vehicle, a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Nike golf clubs and a Bose sound system.
Mike Cochran said he’s expecting 100-120 players and does not have a specific monetary goal for the tournament. “You never know how much you will get,” he said. The money raised will go to the foundation’s work and to help Justin’s medical expenses. Some of the efforts of the foundation are to sponsor programs and survey areas that are considered “handicap accessible.” Mike Cochran said they’ve evaluated and published how “accessible” wheelchair friendly trails are in the Smokey Mountains and how easy it is to fill up a car’s gas tank at a designated disabled fill station.
Bruce McKinnon, a family friend to the Cochrans, said he got involved because he cared about the family. “We have to be involved in something that’s important, more important than just yourself,” he said. For him, the tournament is a “continuation of hope,” for disabled people. “Having people involved, it continues hope, not just for us but for the rest of the world.”
As of June 10, Justin Cochran will not be able to attend the golf tournament due to a stage four bedsore, Mike Cochran said. Stage four is when there is full thickness skin loss with extensive destruction. It is the worst type of sore.