7th Annual Carnival Gala Raises Money and Awareness for Those with Walking Impairments
Tampa, FL – Seven years ago, Tampa Bay Area resident Daisy Vega made history when Freedom to Walk Foundation officially became a 501(c)3 national non-profit. They are a one-of-a-kind organization which helps children and adults experiencing Foot Drop caused by Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, Stroke, Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury, to obtain a Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES) device to help them to Walk.
Daisy, who has Multiple Sclerosis and Foot Drop, a weakness of the muscles involved in lifting the front part of her foot which causes foot and toe dragging or high-step walking, has been able to walk freely again thanks to the WalkAide®, a functional electrical stimulation device that worn on the calf, sends electric impulses to the foot, causing the foot and leg to lift and follow through as they would with a natural, unimpaired gait.
With an out-of-pocket cost of $2,950 per unit, which is not currently covered by most insurances, the cost is prohibitive for many who see the FDA-approved WalkAide® as an invaluable opportunity to improve the quality of life as it has for Daisy.
Through education, inspiration and empowerment, the Freedom to Walk Foundation has helped hundreds. For the past Galas, they have gifted a total of seven WalkAides® to children diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, Visually Impaired, Brain Tumor and Stroke to name a few.
“They are putting their footing in the world,” says Vega of the assistance given to all the recipients who have benefitted from a WalkAide® with the help of the foundation and its seven galas. “Every dollar donated equals a step towards helping someone to Walk with their own WalkAide® ,” Vega said.
One such success story is 29-year old Emily Zmoda, a 2016 WalkAide recipient who joined the Foundation’s Board as the Director of Community Outreach this year. During brain tumor surgery in 2015, Zmoda suffered a Stroke which left her unable to walk on her left side. She recalls it as the most uncertain and depressing time of her life until the Hanger Clinic, which provides prosthetic and orthotic care nationally to patients with disabilities or injuries, suggested the WalkAide® device to help train her brain to lift her foot. A teacher at the time, living paycheck to paycheck, Zmoda sought the assistance of the Freedom to Walk Foundation, which taught Emily how to seek donations that ultimately paid for the cost of the WalkAide® which has helped restore her to normal mobility. As a result, in 2017, Emily successfully ran her first 5K run for brain tumor research.
“Because of the Freedom to Walk Foundation, I can run again. It’s the embodiment of hope for people struggling to walk independently with Foot Drop,” she said. “Your donations are never in vain.”
To continue the effort to educate and assist those in need of a WalkAide®, the American Dream Home Mortgage successfully presented the Freedom to Walk Foundation 7th Annual Gala with a “Carnival” theme on Saturday, October 5 at the Marriott Tampa Airport at which time a surprise proclamation was introduced from Tampa Mayor Jane Castor pronouncing October “Foot Drop Month” in Tampa. The event featured Phoebe Samba Dancers, dining, music, raffles, silent auction, dancing, Mistress of Ceremonies Jenn Holloway-Bingham, and Keynote Speaker Rita Lowman, President of Pilot Bank, which has served as a gala sponsor of the Freedom to Walk Foundation for three years.
Lowman knows firsthand what it is like to learn to walk again. In 1983, she was involved in a serious car accident, which crushed a portion of her thighbone and left her with 70 percent usage of her right side which is now shorter than her left.
“Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations,” said Lowman, who credits the Freedom to Walk Foundation for helping many overcome challenging roads throughout the course of its seven year existence.
“More companies like mine need to be a part and give back to help people be able to walk freely, and that is why this foundation is very near and dear to my heart,” Lowman told the guests at the gala.
Vega is always seeking donors to help fund WalkAides® for the many inquiries the Freedom to Walk Foundation receives. She is also searching for sponsors who will receive a number of benefits and notoriety at the 8th Annual Freedom to Walk Foundation Black & White Gala next year, which will be held on Saturday, October 10, 2020 at the Centre Club in Tampa. In addition to this, the Foundation is made up of only volunteers and is always seeking more to be part of the family.
For sponsorship, donor, and volunteer information, contact Daisy Vega at 813-546-2329 or email at Daisy.Vega@FreedomToWalkFoundation.org. Website: www.FreedomToWalkFoundation.org