Voting for the 2011 Spinal Cord Injury Advocate Award closed Tuesday May 31, 2011. The Winner will be announced the second week of June.

Below are the finalists for the Second Annual Anapol Advocate Award as named by the Anapol Schwartz Foundation Steering Committee:

Adam Taliaferro

Adam was a rising star in the world of Penn State football in 2000. He lived and breathed football, and he moved on and off the field with an athleticism and grace that was as fluid as flowing water. Then, in the 2000 season, Adam became paralyzed while making a tackle—a clean one—against Ohio State. The flowing water became contained in a cervical collar. But Adam didn’t let his spinal cord injury impact his joy for life or his desire to do something big with his talents. True, Adam’s football days were over, but with guts and hard work, he walked out of Magee Rehabilitation Hospital after 3 grueling months of rehab. Since then, Adam has inspired other spinal cord injury patients by sharing his story with them one-on-one, visiting them at Magee and other hospitals. He also started the Adam Taliaferro Foundation to help other athletes who received life-changing injuries and provides educational and financial support to research helping to prevent and cure such injuries. However, what Adam’s true contribution to others with spinal cord injury is how he inspires just by living his life. He switched his focus from his once nimble body to his extremely nimble brain, graduating from law school a few years ago and now working for an international law firm.   Adam has the life he wants. He is flowing water that found a new route.

If Adam Wins, a $5,000 donation will be given to The Adam Taliaferro Foundation

Mary J. Mulcahey

MJ is an occupational therapist who has worked with children with spinal cord injuries (SCI) for over 22 years at Shriners Hospital for Children and established the pediatric SCI program, led the miniaturization of implantable functional electrical stimulation making them available for children with SCI, and established the first pediatric SCI program for upper extremity reconstruction allowing children to realize new abilities. MJ has developed guidelines on how to evaluate the consequence of SCI in young children; these guidelines are made available on the American Spinal Injury Association (ASIA) website and developed methods to obtain parent and children reported outcomes after SCI. MJ edited the only textbook on pediatric SCI, is past chair of the ASIA Rehabilitation Committee; current chair of the ASIA Pediatric committee; Treasurer of ASIA and; associate editor of Topics in Spinal Cord Injury. MJ is the past recipient of the 2009 Excellence Award given by the American Paraplegia Society to a person who “has made remarkable differences in the lives of people with SCI.” MJ leads outreach efforts for children with SCI living in rural regions of the country. She teaches about SCI through invited lectureships and in her role as Research Associate Professor at Thomas Jefferson University. She has a tireless commitment for excellence, an obvious passion for working with children with SCI and approaches those relationships with intention, discernment and care. MJ has improved the lives of persons with SCI world-wide.

If MJ Wins, a $5,000 donation will be given to the American Spinal Injury Association

AJ Nanayakkara

When a martial arts injury left him paralyzed at the age of twenty, AJ Nanayakkara fought his way back. Ten years later, AJ is a wheelchair athlete, mentor, and community leader. He is a certified SCUBA diver, wheelchair rugby player, and is training to become a pilot. AJ won a gold medal as a member of the US National Wheelchair Rugby Team at the 2005 World Wheelchair and Amputee Games in Rio de Janeiro. He has developed adapted recreation programs across the country, and his many awards include being named a Philadelphia Hometown Hero and receiving the City Key. As the Wheelchair Sports Coordinator at Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, AJ added dozens of new participants and programs including surfing, flying, racing, and water skiing. He serves on Philadelphia’s Mayor’s Commission on People with Disabilities and numerous Boards of agencies that address disability issues. He is a community advocate and business leader advising organizations on how to foster climates of inclusion. AJ mentors patients at Magee Rehabilitation, Moss Rehabilitation, Shriner’s Hospital for Children, and various nursing homes. He teaches undergraduate and graduate students in Psychology, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy, and Therapeutic Recreation and advises the Department of Defense on how to promote Inclusive Recreation for Wounded Warriors. AJ and his wife founded the Global Abilities Foundation to help people with disabilities in the developing world reintegrate into their communities. This summer, AJ and the Global Abilities team will travel to Sri Lanka to assess the needs of that countries disability community.

If AJ Wins, a $5,000 donation will be made to the Legal Clinic for the Disabled

Harry W. Schwartz, M.D

Focusing his efforts and clinical skills in the care of individuals with spinal cord injury, Dr. Schwartz was named the clinical director of the CARF accredited Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation System of Care at Moss Rehab in 1994.  In December 1998 he qualified for the first Certificate of Added Qualifications in Spinal Cord Medicine granted by the American Board of PM&R. In the same year he was recognized with the Teacher of the Year Award from the Department of PM&R at Temple University School of Medicine. Since 2001 he holds an academic appointment as Clinical Assistant Professor of PM&R in the Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, College of Medicine Thomas Jefferson University He is a Member of the American Paraplegia Society and the American Spinal Injury Association. For nearly 10 years he was a member of the Prevention Committee of the American Spinal Injury Association helping prepare educational materials to improve the care of individuals with SCI. Dr. Schwartz is a true inspiration to the hundreds of patients to whom he has provided excellent clinical care and  to the many medical students and residents he has trained in the specialized care required by SCI survivors and his participation in clinical research while dealing with his own multiple physical limitations caused by a cervical level spinal cord injury sustained while in school.

If Harry Wins, a $5,000 donation will be given to MossRehab for their Spinal Cord Injury Program

Dr. Daniel Gottlieb

Dr. Daniel Gottlieb is a practicing psychologist and therapist for over 35 years, has written several books, wrote a column for The Philadelphia Inquirer for 15 years, hosts a national radio show on WHYY FM, and is the resident family therapist in the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s online paralysis community; most of all though, Dr. Dan is exactly as his own business card describes him, “Human.” Living with a spinal cord injury since a 1979 automobile accident, Dr. Dan brings a very unique perspective to the field of psychology. He is incredibly honest and real about what it means to live with a disability. Yet, Dr. Dan is immensely spirited and bright, living each day smiling.  He welcomes the paralysis community members to open their hearts about their concerns and deep feelings; in turn he expresses both his professional advice as a psychologist and his personal advice as someone living with a disability.

If Daniel Wins, a $5,000 donation will be made to The Christopher Reeve Foundation