The Landscape

Lakeshore Foundation - President and CEO Jeff Underwood

September 06, 2020 Naveh Eldar / Jeff Underwood Season 1 Episode 15
The Landscape
Lakeshore Foundation - President and CEO Jeff Underwood
Show Notes Transcript

The Lakeshore Foundation was the first facility in the United States designated as an Olympic AND Paralympic training facility. They are leaders in rehabilitation, adaptive sports, research, and advocacy.

In this episode, President and CEO, Jeff Underwood speaks about the history of Lakeshore, their youth programs, work with injured veterans, being an Olympic and Paralympics training facility, and Research. Jeff also discusses his work as a member of the USOC Paralympic Advisory Committee, and much more. As I state in the opening of this episode, Jeff gives a master class in how to adapt a business and the importance of having a progressive strategic plan.

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Host - Naveh Eldar  0:17  
Welcome to the landscape, a podcast to shed light on the people programs and businesses that are changing the landscape for individuals with any type of disability. I'm your host Naveh Eldar. This is the last episode on my miniseries around sport, which was to help us wait an extra year for the Olympics and Paralympics. I wanted to look at sports through different lenses. And it was wonderful to have a Paralympic champion, ESPN who supports the Special Olympics and athletes with a disability. A fellow and athlete reporter from Special Olympics and a staff member of the Paralympic wheelchair rugby team. But today I'm closing it all out speaking with Jeff Underwood, the President and CEO CEO of the very impressive Lakeshore Foundation, which was the first facility in the United States designated as an official Olympic and Paralympic training site. If you are in leadership at your company, this episode is a masterclass in adapting a strategic planning. Jeff discusses Lake shores youth programs, work with injured veterans, the Paralympic arm of the foundation, and impactful research that is being done at their facility. The episode begins with Jeff giving us a brief overview of the fascinating history and transformation of the Lakeshore foundation.

Jeff Underwood  1:39  
Yeah, it's really a great story. And it really began in 1923 when we're in Jefferson County, and there was a desire back in the early 20s to build a permanent inpatient facility for the treatment of tuberculosis and a local family donated in 1923. This land to Build the Jefferson tuberculosis sanatorium. That sanatorium opened in 2016. That's the 26th day. But what's interesting about that now that's like, in three years from now, we will celebrate 100 years of service of this property to the community. It's evolved and has changed over time. You know, we're getting to that 100 year milestone So, the tuberculosis sanatorium opened in the 20s operated up until the early 70s. It's interesting some of the buildings that were built in the 20s and 30s were built as a part of the New Deal WPA CCC buildings, a couple of those still on campus and still being used. But in the late 60s, early 70s. For the most part, the country had conquered tuberculosis, particularly with the need for inpatient facilities. And the board of the Jefferson tuberculosis sanatorium, said what is going to be the next best use of this property, this 45 acre campus that we have They looked at a variety of options and decided what the community needed was a rehabilitation hospital for physical medicine, physical rehabilitation, not far from here in those days was in fact a lake called Edgewood lake. And that's where the Lakeshore word comes from that Lakeshore has long since gone, but the name Lake Shore has lived beyond the length of the lake itself. So, in 1973, the property transitioned from TB sanatorium to a rehabilitation hospital, initially at 40 beds. In the early days of the operation of Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital, the leadership of the hospital started seeing a pattern of people being discharged from the hospital. They went home and a few weeks later, many of them were back in the hospital. Back in those days, much of the patient population of the A hospital where people with severe injuries, primarily spinal cord injuries and severe physically disabling injuries. So, in an effort to break the cycle of rehabilitation discharge, go home, sit around, get sick again because of inactivity. In 1974, the leadership of Lakeshore hospital said we need to find a way. So when people are discharged from the hospital, they have the opportunity to be physically active. Keeping in mind this is the early 70s. Most of this population are people who are now using wheelchairs, sort of the cultural acceptance and perspective on people with disabilities is very different than it is today. But program that's really kind of what the roots of everything we do today kind of go back to that core idea of importance of physical activity for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. So Long story short, that basketball program for people coming out of the hospital was very popular. I can just imagine that somebody said Well, I have a buddy who wants to play and maybe he wasn't discharged from the hospital. But can we add him? I've got a buddy who would really interested maybe in wheelchair tennis point is over time. The program's grew beyond just patients coming out of this hospital into more community based programs, involving a variety of sports and moving on from Sports to areas of general activity. Those programs for many years were operated by the hospital as therapeutic recreation services of the hospital. They grew to the point where the board of Lakeshore hospital felt that those community based programs needed a different home and the Board of Lakeshore hospital have created established the Lakeshore foundation is an additional nonprofit entity on campus to be the home of those types of programs. Another interesting part of our history, up until 1994 Lakeshore hospital had been operated as a freestanding independent rehabilitation hospital governed by this nonprofit board of directors. And that board realized that the best future for the hospital was going to be to put the day to day management of the hospital, rather than under a nonprofit board, put it in the hands of professionals from the private sector. And the there was some sort of restructuring that was done in 1994 in 1995, which resulted in the leasing of the hospital operations to the private sector. And then the total focus of the nonprofit entity, which which now is basically Lakeshore Foundation was on these programs of physical activity for people with disability. And that was really a great move by our board for a couple of reasons. One, it gave the nonprofit entity true sort of focus on community based programs rather than on sort of running a hospital and community based programs. And it also was structured in such a way that the lease of the hospital, the total return off that lease was plowed back into the budget of Lakeshore foundation. So just essentially was a brand new and significant revenue stream for the foundation to sort of to build on into grow from that was a transformational moment in our history. It was the same about the same time that we started becoming. I mentioned earlier that we started in sport. So even though at this point in the 90s, we were doing more than just elite or competitive sport. Our expertise in that world had had grown quite a bit There was not much of a program in this country for athletes with disabilities. The emergence of the US Paralympic movement was starting in those days. A significant point in our history was 1996 when the Olympic and Paralympic Games were in Atlanta, and we knew some of the Atlanta organizers, and we were two hours away, and we got pretty involved with the Atlanta Paralympic people, and we did a lot of outreach on behalf of the Atlanta Paralympics. But we also were able to have some one on one conversations with a lot of athletes. He said that what they really needed to be more competitive as a US Paralympic athlete was more opportunities for training. They just didn't have the opportunity didn't have the resources. They didn't have the opportunities to train. The United States Olympic Committee was not giving proper attention to the Paralympic athletes. So that's what we saw as an opposition Based upon our mission, and what we were in our expertise, we felt we could play a role in the US Paralympic movement is really the sort of the first time that we saw Lakeshore extending beyond serving just to community and serving, maybe at a national level. It also just so happened we were in the midst of the planning new facilities on our campus, and in planning new facilities on the campus, and those are mainly sort of our sport and recreational facilities that we started the conversation with the United States Olympic Committee and said, We want to be helpful to the United States Olympic Committee, we want to see the Paralympic program grow, we will make ourselves and our facilities available. And what we want from you in return is a designation as an Olympic and Paralympic training site. So we have that sort of formal acceptance, credibility that comes from that relationship and it took longer than you should have. But in 2003, we were granted the designation as one of at the time one of I think eight officially designated training sites and the only one that was considered Olympic and Paralympic at that time. So that really solidified our relationship as a national leader in the area of us Paralympic program.

Unknown Speaker  10:23  
It's amazing and I was invited down which I'm going to make a point to get there because I'm not just about three, four hours away from you. But I did look online. And I will tell you, I have been to a lot of facilities. I'm a big sports fan, including the Olympic training facilities in Colorado Springs and your facility is gorgeous. I mean, it is absolute top of the line, technology equipment. You know, just the atmosphere of it like large open windows with natural lighting. So you guys took a lot of care to make sure it was a world class. facility.

Unknown Speaker  11:01  
Yeah, and we're proud of the fact that we have, I think at last count six or so Paralympians on the staff. These are all folks who are no longer competing in our communications department in, in our membership department in our recreation athletic department. We have some Paralympians and other athletes with disability on the staff. And that's, you know, the building's great and wonderful and I appreciate your comments. Without the right people that are making it, making it really work every day and having the passion and the energy to deliver the programs to building in and of itself is just a shell, the real heart and soul comes from the staff and the effort that they put into it.

Unknown Speaker  11:41  
And the planning and intent so what so my daughter used to be a USA swimmer she's she's still just a senior in high school, but you know, for sports for people without a disability, there is just this pathway right of training from a very young age. And, and one of the previous conversations I had in this series, we talked Talking about how individuals with a disability are often not encouraged to participate in sports, like just being a cheerleader is enough, right. But you on the other hand, you have an extensive youth program. So can you tell us a little bit about that?

Unknown Speaker  12:17  
I'm glad we're kind of starting with you because it's so important. We have 200 220 230 youth in our program aging from from 18 months up to about 1819 years old. But it's just so important to get off to a good start. If you are a child with a disability. You see so many stories of the kid that maybe is has a birth condition, maybe they've had an accident or an illness that a young age, and they need to be around people who help them build their confidence. They need to be shown that they can do things rather than that they can't do things they need to be put in environments of have high expectations. And oftentimes, their medical providers, their schools, even their families, at times consider them too fragile. And that's not what happens when they when they come here and we certainly don't put them at risk. But our experience tells us that what you need to do is look at every child, as an individual, identify where they really have some opportunities, what their interests are, and we're not trying to you know, we're a lot more than just an elite sport organization. We the Paralympic aspect of Lakeshore gets a lot of attention. But we want to look at each person in our program, particularly the children, what are you interested in? Is it dance, is it you know, is it professional, if you build their confidence and demonstrate to them that they can do certain things that's going to spill over into other aspects of their lives? And we're educating quite frankly, not only that child, often we're we're raising the consciousness of our caregivers, their family members, their teachers. To let them know that they can do things and we're teaching them how to be self advocates as well. They have people in their lives that are telling they can't do things they don't need to except that they need to demonstrate to those those folks that they in fact, can and will do things given the opportunity.

Unknown Speaker  14:18  
I love it. The program that I'm over in Tennessee expectations is everything you know, we have like a really good we do employment is what I'm over. And people from around the country asked how our numbers are so good, like what is our secret sauce? And I tell them is expectations. So So I love that you have it, you know in sport because like it, it does, it changes, you know, teachers and parents and every single person that you named. So if a youth or an adult isn't interested in competitive sports, I'm sure that you have programs just to keep them active. And so what are what are just some of the things that you offer in general.

Unknown Speaker  14:56  
Yeah, we do. probably half a dozen camps. A year for children and youth summer specialty camps such as perhaps a sports camp. Some are camps where they are invited to bring a friend or a sibling. We call those more inclusion camps. We do some camps that are based upon outdoor recreation, cycling, waterskiing, that type of thing. The curriculum for camps really sort of varies based upon the season of the year, the age of the child, were more and more weird, including aspects of mindfulness in nutrition into all of our camps. And nutrition is an important part of the children and youth camps. Teaching them not only about what healthy eating means, but how to prepare healthy meals. We do that in a new nutrition lab that we have on our campus. We also try to make sure we understand from parents and from the children, you know what they want and what they need. Not just delivering things that we feel like are right for them, but making sure we're Delivering the kind of camping experiences that they want to have. And sometimes they just want, it's just a matter of fun. Here, they want to have the same kind of experiences a lot of their friends are having. And that's how we like the inclusion camps because the child with a disability brings a sibling or a friend with them. And I think the experience there is probably more profound for that child who comes as a friend, oftentimes just to see how their buddy and their friends are having such a good time and doing so much together that that's the social aspect of what we do. Whether you're a child or whether you're an adult, is huge. We see that social connecting is a big part of what we do, because for so many of our clients, they don't, they have very limited social interactions, right. And even though we talk about ourselves being mainly into sort of physical activity, the social connection is a big part of building out their life and also it's a way of sustaining their involvement in the program.

Unknown Speaker  16:57  
That is super interesting. I have recently been talking a lot about unified sports with the intellectual and developmental. Yeah population but to have inclusive camps is amazing. Is there an opportunity for competition? Are there teams though? Like do you compete against other cities or other facilities?

Unknown Speaker  17:17  
Yeah, there is a the two best examples with the single best example. There's a national organization called the National Wheelchair Basketball Association, NW ba. And they have community based grassroots programs all the way up to sort of national elite level programs. I think last season we had three different youth related teams based upon ages. So these kids come to Lake Shore from really from all over Central Alabama, some a little bit further during basketball season because they don't have a basketball option in their schools, right. And they are competing in this national Wheelchair Basketball League. And they go to they travel they go to tournaments. We host big tournaments ourselves from time to time. But basically, they're getting that same kind of experience that their schoolmates are, who are participating in school sports, we want to be a resource and encourage the local school systems to be more inclusive than they have been in the past. And and we're making progress in any one particular school, probably not going to have a lot of children with disability. And I mean, if you've for this cop sake of this, this conversation, I mean, when the schools think about disability, they think a lot about learning disabilities and, and that is something they should do. But when it comes to physical disabilities, there aren't a lot of children in most schools with who are wheelchair users or maybe who are blind or have lost a limb. And I think it's easy oftentimes for the schools to sort of ignore them when it comes to involving them in their recreation and PE program. So we try to be a resource to the teachers. To show them how to do it how to how to include those kids, and they want to oftentimes the local schools just really don't know how.

Unknown Speaker  19:07  
So this is how gosh, you guys do so much that I want to I could talk just about the youth program all day. But I want to get into you also have a program for injured veterans. Yeah, I want to know if you could tell us a little bit about that.

Unknown Speaker  19:22  
Yeah. And we're real proud of that. It started, I can't remember if it was, oh, seven or eight. We're looking at what's going on in the world. We're, you know, we're deploying troops to the Middle East. We're seeing on the news every night stories of people who are getting hurt on the battlefield. More and more people who are losing limbs are having serious injuries, quite frankly, people used to not survive those injuries. But a lot of the incidence of physically disabling injuries was going up. And we all kind of realized all of us here at Lake Shore that, you know, we can help we there's a role that we can play. And so we said we're We're going to start a very program specifically for members of the military and their families who've been injured. We, we said, okay, we're going to do every year we're going to do a camp, it's not going to cost these individuals anything. We're going to focus on what we call life recreation skills, so that whatever they do at our campus is something they can do when they go back home. And then we said, okay, where do we start? How do we connect? And so we spend a lot of time trying to make connections with the local branches of the service, Walter Reed Hospital, Alabama's a big national guard state, with members of the guard. And, you know, we would call these people and we say, you know, we're Lakeshore, we want to do this, it won't cost your folks anything and they look at it, like we were, you know, had just come from Saturn or somewhere. But we weren't finally established our sort of credibility as an organization. And then these places started sort of referring people said, if you're gonna do this camp, and you're going to get these folks there That's great. That's what they need. They need to be, they need to find a way post recovery to continue to be active and kind of re integrate into the community. So that what we thought was going to be one camp a year kind of a serving regionally, over the next few years became like six camps a year, which today has served close to 3000 people. And from I think 46 states at the last count, you know, and it's going to continue to be a real core part of what we do. If you look at the history of the Paralympic movement. It started in World War Two, right, you know, with war related injuries, and a lot of service related injuries are not battlefield, their training injuries. I mean, training itself is high risk. We've had people in our program, and I know some athletes who will tell you, I can think of one guy who went on to compete on the US team in China, he fell off the back of a truck and a training exercise. So we feel like that's a long term commitment. For Lakeshore to be doing these camps, we in addition to the camps that we do, which primarily serve people from outside of Alabama, we have a program for people who live close enough to our main facility. There are about 150 people in that program now we're just basically their workout place. Okay? So we're real proud of it. We branded it Lima, Foxtrot, someone early in the early days suggested we kind of use a military lingo for branding that program and the L for Lakeshore, the F for foundation but you know, one guy said to me one day said, You know, I love Lima Foxtrot, but to me, that means liberty and freedom. I felt like that too. So we kind of use both those.

Unknown Speaker  22:43  
And now I want to pull it back into the Paralympic movement. So like you said in 2003, became an official US Olympic and Paralympic training site. So how many sports do you train with the Paralympics? Can you give us a little bit of the highlights Have some of the athletes or some of the teams there?

Unknown Speaker  23:02  
Sure. And it's a good question and a lots changed since 2003. In the early days. And I'd say for several years after that designation, we were the frequent training site for wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball men and women. For goalball there were some some Olympic sports that train did some training camps here, particularly the the tumbling and trampoline component of USA Gymnastics trained here a few times. Paralympic archery, Paralympic sailing, actually, it was kind of interesting because and they mainly came here to learn how to do a good fitness programs. It was geared toward all the movements that you needed when you're out on the water sailing. They didn't come here because they were fooled by the name. And then over time, what's happened is that a lot of sports have started gravitating toward a singular home for their sport. So goalball has found a good home for them basketball the same way. And the sports has found a home here is wheelchair rugby. So we are still a training site that is available to a multitude of sports. But it's also a good model that a sport have somewhat of a home base. And the result of all that is that we have fewer sports coming here for training but for I think for understandable and and for good reason. So basketball is here. Still here. Occasionally paratriathlon is going to be coming a little bit more than I think they've got a camp three camps scheduled next year. Okay. So it's still a variety of sports. The sport that we are most involved in and invested in is para rugby, wheelchair rugby.

Unknown Speaker  24:51  
And they have been very successful there is when I asked them about it, they're easily the best in the world.

Unknown Speaker  24:58  
Yeah, well We were hoping that this time as we speak, they would be proving that yet again. They have to wait till next year at this time to prove that yet again they are. They are hungry, they are hungry. Yes, having been on top in London and then having moved down to silver double overtime game in Rio, they're not happy to be. They're anxious to get back to the top of the podium.

Unknown Speaker  25:22  
If for those of you who have seen a Rising Phoenix, which is the documentary on Netflix on the Paralympic Games, they feature one of the gentlemen rugby wheelchair players who won the gold against the United States and so I watched that with a little bit of you know, whatever, I'm American, so I'm allowed to be a little bit upset about it. Although it's a fantastic documentary. Not only I watched that

Unknown Speaker  25:47  
yesterday, it I've been seeing the trailers I was getting excited about it. I I have seen a lot of Paralympic movies and films and they've all been, but this one I thought was so good from the standpoint Have justice to filmmaking and the creativity. Yeah. If you don't know if you're not interested in sport or Paralympic watch the film just for the pure art of film, right. I just thought they did a great job with it. And you're right. Having watching Riley bat for the Australian sort of was, I saw the game we won in person and I saw the gold medal game that we did not win in person. So I'm ready to take them on again. Okay.

Unknown Speaker  26:27  
Now you're very involved in the Olympic movement. Can you tell us a little bit about that? I believe you sit on some committees.

Unknown Speaker  26:34  
Yeah. And you know, it's a real honor because I think it speaks to the fact that Lakeshore has played such a leadership role in the movement. At the time we were growing and I touched on this in the history. You know, the USOC, in course, gratefully now is the usopc. But when I refer to it historically, I'll say the USOC, you know, they operate under a congressional charter. And Congress basically said you are the organization that is supposed to be The US Olympic program and the Paralympic program, that's my congressional charter. And we know the job they've done on the Olympic side but on the Paralympic side, for years, there was certainly in attention, if not neglect, neglect of the Paralympic movement, when the USOC started paying more attention to that. I think because of lakeshores involvement in adaptive sports, they recognize that maybe Lakeshore ought to be at the table as they tried to figure out how to how to really grow and develop the Paralympic model and I was fortunate to be asked to be on a working group that made recommendations to the USOC board that led to the creation of the US Paralympic division. And then shortly after that, the USOC board created something called the Paralympic Advisory Council and I was very proud to be asked to be involved on that I'm a still a member of the of the pack the Paralympic Advisory Council. Like I think I may be the only person still on there who's in the original group and We Our job is to advise the the USA now PC board about matters related to Paralympic and make sure that they are ever mindful of the Paralympic side of the house, I will tell you that this current leadership of the usopc their board in their, in their executive leadership doesn't need to be reminded about that as much as past leadership has there really seems to be very sincere and genuine embracing of the Paralympic side of the house by the current organization. And that's great to see. And several other Lakeshore people have played roles in the US Paralympic movement. So I think, you know, it's one of those things, it's a that we're, I'm very proud of personally, and I think it speaks well of what lakeshores done for the movement.

Unknown Speaker  28:45  
So from your unique perspective, because you have such a unique perspective, the Paralympics have had ups and downs, a very recent ups and downs, right like in Rio, they didn't even know if it was going to take place, right and they just basically took the parallel money and put it onto the Olympic side. What is your optimism or skepticism of the next five to 10 years?

Unknown Speaker  29:09  
Well, I'm optimistic because first of all in this country, the US OPI leadership appears to be totally committed. I'm optimistic because the organizers in Tokyo appear to be totally committed. And then I know for sure without a doubt, that in LA in 2028, with the LA games, they have an amazing plan put forth for the Paralympics to when they're going to be in LA. So I think the next few host city games, you know, particularly Tokyo, and I'm sure Paris would you don't hear much about Paris these days. I think there's an acceptance and embracing a just an understanding of the Paralympic movement that we've never experienced before that, I think Paralympics athletes are going to continue to be watchful to make sure that that's doesn't evaporate. But I just think the movement has matured, professionalized and it's grown. And I'm optimistic that the upward trajectory the Paralympic movement has been on is going to continue having dodged the bullet from Rio. Right, quite frankly, because we, you know, we've both seen the film and I tell you the way they told that I was, I was getting nervous watching the film, even though I knew it happened. Exactly, because I went to Rio and I remember thinking people were asking me, you still go and you still go in because mostly at the time they were worried about Zika virus, right, exactly. So but the cities that are hosting the game for the next two or three cycles, I think are strongly committed and that will bode well for the moon.

Unknown Speaker  30:48  
Yeah, you know, I was I was thinking the exact same thing like I knew for a fact it took place and actually, one of my previous in this in this Olympic Paralympic series was with an athlete who was there and he was talking About the Rio Games, not from that perspective, just about logistics and things like that. So I'm like I knew what happened. But you watch the documentary and you just get nervous, like, Yeah, what's going down here? So get to get more on Lake Shore side of things. You guys also do research, which I personally love research of any kind, because it should just drive every decision that we make, in my opinion. So I want to know if you can tell me how did you get involved with research? And do you have a couple of favorite studies that you guys are doing?

Unknown Speaker  31:33  
Yeah, it's a it's a great point. It's become a really big part of who we are in what we do our main building right now. We've been in it for 19 years. And so let's say a little over 20 years ago, as we were looking at some future work of foundation, we were starting to hear from people that there was really nobody very few people, very few organizations and very few universities. We're doing anything to really help Study and to try to put evidence behind physical activity and disability to to build evidence based programs to demonstrate that they work that people had the right outcomes. First of all, there weren't very many places that were delivering programs and even fewer that. And some of the universities that were doing research were not connected to the program providers. And we seem to hear that more and more. And we finally got to the point where we said, Lakeshore foundation needs to start a research program. And when we built the facility that we're in now, we built a small space that was going to be a research department for like, we were going to study our programs, internally, make sure they were having an impact that we could sort of prove their worth. And we operated as a department for a few years and felt like all that was underperforming and the only way you could really take on research was in a collaborative model through a research institution. And so we said we got, you know, operating as a, as a department of a nonprofit, you don't have the resources, you don't have the clout. You can't go after NIH grants or CDC grants. You just you weren't, we weren't in the research world. And so we looked around, we developed a model of collaboration with the university. And it made perfect sense, even though we looked at some options to do a collaboration with the University of Alabama in Birmingham, UAB, who had a very strong research program, and a very committed Dean in their school of health professions. That's the school that has OT and PT in nutrition. And, again, things kind of take long in our world, but we, you know, we had conversations over a couple of years and we all got to the point where we felt a formal collaboration by lecturer and in UAB, was the right model. They were very interested. We were very interested along the way As we were still trying to figure out if we should even get into research. We said well, you know, who's doing this already? And is there any one person that's kind of you know, the the go to person in this area of physical activity and disability research and the name that always popped up was Jim Rimmer. And then Dr. Rimmer at the time was at the University of Illinois, Chicago. We went up to see Jim we talked with him. He said, yeah, we need more research. He said, What can I do to help and we kind of use Jim as sort of an unpaid consultant as we built out our model. And then, once we actually developed a collaborative with UAB, we were able to get Jim and his team to move here and to head up our research program so very nice. You had lakeshores is a great program provider you had UAB is a great research institution. Now it was sort of headed up by the number one guy and probably the most quoted and published guy in this in this field in the world, heading up the program. And we're getting close to nine years of having Dr. Rimmer here. And it's just been very successful program in terms of its outputs, its grant procurement, and more and more. We are underscoring a lot of the day to day work at Lakeshore, with data with evidence trying to build programs based upon science. And we think that will be a real asset as we deliver programs in the future.

Unknown Speaker  35:27  
And so does the research. Or I'm sure you're doing more than one study. But does the research revolve around you know, basic outcomes of fitness and exercise for individuals with disability or is it also pertain to like, creating this elite level of athlete for the Paralympic side of it?

Unknown Speaker  35:47  
Yeah, actually, on your last point, very little of it is focused upon athlete performance, even though that's something that we're interested in. When athletes come to town for training. We do put Through a battery of tests to kind of get their baseline in, in various areas, and then when they come back, we test them again. And so we're kind of monitoring their fitness. But that's a small part of current research work. Gotcha. Yeah, we are looking at Lake Shore programs to measure the impact if you come in for a class related to say, balance, and you're in this class for eight weeks, you know, we're taking baselines at the beginning at the end, and we're trying to really measure whether those programs have have any impact. So to a certain extent, is evaluating and improving current programs. We're also developing some new programs through research. You think about the corporate model of r&d, there's an r&d department there, their job is to come up with new products and test them and then take them to the market. We've got a real exciting program called motion to music, we call it into m that was basically developed in the research lab, in our case allowed basically is kind of a fitness room. Okay. But it shows that with regard to, for people say with Parkinson's or Ines, if they go through a specific, it's dance related program, measuring their balance, their gait, their cardio, then they can they can basically expect to get certain results. So we started that program here, we're now using it in four or five other rehab centers around the country. It's almost like a clinical trial. You know, you get to see certain phases. And what we're hoping is it you know, it really eventually gets to a program that you can sort of package and you can replicate because it's proven to work. So research is helping us develop new programs. And there's also a big part of research. And this might have been a separate question related to technology, looking at adaptive technology, new technologies that can be deployed to improve the lives of people with disability.

Unknown Speaker  37:56  
That is a huge movement right now as it should be because we're at an technological age. And you have a partnership with organization called rec tech. Is that correct? Or is that the name of the program? red text?

Unknown Speaker  38:07  
Yeah, red text. The name of the program is kind of the name of the grant is. Let me see if I can get this right rehabilitation Engineering Research Center on recreational technology. So anyway, we call it regtech. You're going under you can understand why it's funded through the National Institute on Disability and rehab research. It's a five year grant. I think it's our I think we're in our second five year cycle. But the mission of regtech is really to expand sort of knowledge and research on recreation technology and then disseminate that technology and to develop new technologies to collaborate with the private sector. We have adapted some existing fitness equipment to make it more accessible. One project is creating a new type of fitness equipment that somebody who's a high level quadriplegic can use independently. Okay. We're looking at gaming systems. To make those more accessible, there's a virtual reality project, I think supposed to start next week or sometime right after Labor Day is a collaboration with Children's Hospital of Alabama. So there's lots of cool stuff going on sort of in the in the technology world under that regtech grant. Very nice, very exciting.

Unknown Speaker  39:19  
You guys have had this

Unknown Speaker  39:21  
really wide sweeping changes from your Inception until today, and you're continuing to change. Like right now you're talking about a VR program that you're starting next week. So what do you see as the future of Lake Shore?

Unknown Speaker  39:34  
these days? I'm not sure what tomorrow looks like. But it's a great question. And we have just completed a strategic planning process. And I think we see two main strategic impact areas of Lakeshore one is very much like I've just described direct service to people, more of that being evidence based and data driven and in the past, but we also see ourselves what we call equipping others working as partners, you may not be an organization or a company or whatever today to even thinking about disability. But if you're interested in reaching out to the market of people with disabilities or to be more inclusive, we have the expertise to partner with you to make that happen. We want to use what we know and what we've learned to promote an inclusive society. So the future of lakeshores continues on this path, a lot of direct service, and also being a partner, wherever people will be interested in partnering with us to promote an inclusive society. Because if you're really going to be successful on the inclusive side, you have to get outside of sort of the world of disability related organizations, you really have to get the attention of companies who are interested in that market companies interested in technology. And that will be an important part of Lakeshore going forward.

Unknown Speaker  41:00  
So I end every episode with a couple personal questions. The first one is you have also been an elected official in Alabama.

Unknown Speaker  41:11  

Unknown Speaker  41:12  
I can't imagine what it would be like to run a campaign. How was that for you that that period of your life and how did you go from there to like? Sure.

Unknown Speaker  41:23  
Okay, well, I guess you probably want a short answer. You know, public service is something that I would took an early interest as well kind of interest as a kid my dad, I live in a community called Homewood, which is just south of Birmingham. I grew up in home when my dad was on the Homewood City Council. So I thought that was kind of cool as a kid to see your dad doing that. I was a business major at the University of Alabama, but but I always had an interest in in government. And there was a point after I was married and living back in Homewood again, I just said, Well, you know, I knew some of the members of the city council and I decided I would try to run for Wood City Council, which, which I did, and I was elected in Homewood, we elect our council president. So the next time around, I did that because I guess I was too impatient being just a council member, I want it to be over the whole thing, right. And in the during that term, the state senator who was from our area, took on a new job after a series of other events. So the State Senate seat from our district became vacant. And so I got for the first time into partisan politics, which is very different than local politics, and served in the State Senate for the remainder of that term. Going into that. I am. I knew that already that my district had been reapportioned for the subsequent election. And just due to where I lived, and my party affiliation, I was not reelected because there was a very strong incumbent that I was up against, but that's all fine, because that was also in the early days of Lakeshore and You know if you can do a little bit of that kind of work and still have full time job, but so I have I have a real appreciation for people who go into elected office. And I know it's very important work. On the other hand, I get kind of frustrated with a lot of what I see going on in among elected officials in government, maybe because I've gotten a little bit of an insider look over the years. Right,

Unknown Speaker  43:23  
right. And so how did you end up at Lake Shore?

Unknown Speaker  43:26  
Well, I was working at UAB. Okay, backing up a little bit terms in my career. After I graduated from the University of Alabama at Birmingham with an economics degree that kind of a specialty and in regional and urban planning, I went to work for the city of Montgomery, working for the city eventually moved back to Birmingham, where I was working for Jefferson County government and their community development program. At that time, one of the sitting county commissioners decided to run for Congress. And I worked on his campaign team because I was big fan of his and then He won that seat. And then he asked me to come be on staff in Washington. So I went up to DC for three years as a legislative aide. I had just gotten married and bought a house and my wife and I had fun in Washington for three years. But we didn't want to make a career out of it there. Came back to town, looking for a job. And I got hired at UAB in a position where I was for about six years working for their comprehensive cancer center in kind of a community affairs job that I realized that if I wasn't a PhD, or an MD or a finance guy at a academic medical center, I had limited, you know, opportunities going forward. Someone told me that lake shore Foundation was going to be hiring a president, okay. And they said, you don't apply for that job if you're interested. And so I applied for the job. They offered it to me, I accepted. I called him right back and said I made a terrible mistake. I'm a stay at UAB. I called him back and said is that job still open? It really was a struggle that I'm in So I'm still in the exact same job. I was hired for a long, long time ago.

Unknown Speaker  45:03  
How big was your staff back then?

Unknown Speaker  45:06  
I was the very first person ever hired. So when I was hired, I was number one. They allowed me to hire an administrative assistant and a development director. So after two years, I think we were two or three. And today, we're about 160. We've, you've

Unknown Speaker  45:22  
done an amazing, amazing job, and people may try to steal you after listening to this because

Unknown Speaker  45:28  
I don't know. It's, it's such a great place and do it's important work. And we got such a great team and it's super bored. So I've been fortunate. Yes.

Unknown Speaker  45:36  
So last question. You've been to a couple of Olympics. I'm slightly jealous of that. Do you have a favorite memory from one of them?

Unknown Speaker  45:45  
Well, I tell you, I've been to seven Paralympic Games. I've actually never been to an Olympic Games. I need to probably do that someday. But, you know, in 2008, I was what's called the chef de mission for the US team us Paralympic team a real honor spent a month In Beijing, I traveled with the team hung out with the team got to march in the in the ceremonies met, there was a lot of hospitality representing the US and that level of experience half that would have to be one of the, you know, one of the crowning moments of my Paralympic experience just because of the it was it was kind of hard work at times. I remember telling people I didn't come here to sleep, and they said, that's a good thing because you won't get much of it. It just, it was such an honor to do that and to play your role at that level. On the other hand, we have a young girl here who played for the US team, and she was a local girl when she was about eight years old, she was in a gym and she was shooting and she could not get the basketball any higher than the rim. And I said, I'm gonna stand here and he'll all rebound for you until you make your first goal. And I think after about 20 minutes, and I was about worn out, she finally got the ball up to where it just bass barely rolled over the wind rim and when and I'm thinking I held that parallel Pick athlete make her first goal ever. That is amazing. So it's just you know, it's there's all sorts of great experiences here.

Unknown Speaker  47:08  
Right? Well, thank you so much, Jeff for your time. And more importantly, thank you for everything that you do personally, and that Lakeshore does. And I cannot wait. You can find more information on this world class facility at Lake That's Lake Shore dot o RG. You can also find them on most social media platforms. Make sure to subscribe to the landscape podcast and recommend it to friends. In the next episode, you will hear part one of an interview with one of the most impressive individuals I've met in my life. Linda moraine is an Air Force veteran who spent 10 years as a military judge was a judge over war crimes for the United Nations and has so much more experience in her personal and professional Life. Linda is the personification of grit, and I strongly believe a movie needs to be made about her. If you listen to our upcoming episodes, you will surely agree. I'll see you then.

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