Outspoken! Magazine Honours Nigel Gilby
Honouring Nigel Gilby
I would like to honour Nigel Gilby for sponsoring the Peer Support Program in London. Nigel’s knowledge of spinal cord injuries is truly amazing and because of that he has a true understanding what the needs and challenges are for people with a spinal cord injury. Nigel has been out to a number of events and has gotten to know a number of our Peer Volunteers. He takes the time to talk to as many people as possible when attending the events, and has a passion for helping people and giving back to his community. I am so honoured to have him and his law firm, Lerners LLP, representing the Peer Support Program at Spinal Cord Injury Ontario.
Nigel said, “I initially connected with Spinal Cord Injury Ontario because of my work as a personal injury lawyer and working with clients who have sustained spinal cord injuries. In the early 1990’s, I joined the Board of Directors. I enjoyed the experience, but stepped down after a few years as
we wanted to create more space for people with spinal cord injuries to participate. My involvement didn’t end there, though.
After that, I was involved with organizing the first Wheelchair Relay Challenge in London. I remember the first time I participated using a wheelchair and it gave me an appreciation for how difficult it was. Back then, the chairs weren’t made of the light materials like they are today. They were big, heavy and not designed very well. The event has morphed a bit over the years and we’ve added another one into the mix – the Roll and Bowl. I’m proud to say that I have a collection of bowling pins earned from being the top fundraiser for the past six years. I’m still involved to this day and it’s something that is important to me both professionally and personally.
It has been quite an education over the years. In theory, as the lawyer, I’m supposed to have the education and tell people what they should be doing. However, I’m the one that’s learned so much. People can sustain spinal cord injuries in so many different ways, including some that you probably wouldn’t imagine could ever happen. It’s taught me that you need to enjoy life because you never know what’s facing you around the corner. It has been exciting to see the advancements over the years, both medical and technological. When I first started, the life expectancy of someone with a spinal cord injury would be in their 50s, maybe early 60s and that has increased a lot because of healthcare advancements. It will be interesting to see what the future brings. Will we be able to grow spinal cords? Or fix people’s injuries? Ten, fifteen, twenty years from now, where will we be?”
Through my involvement, I have a better appreciation for the issues and challenges faced by people with spinal cord injuries. It has been amazing to see how resilient people are. One person that comes to mind is Jason. He sustained paralysis while playing hockey and being shoved into the boards. After his injury, he went on to compete in the Paralympics and has won multiple medals as a wheelchair Rugby player. I have such an admiration for the strength and endurance it takes to carry on and not let a spinal cord injury define or affect your life in a negative way. It’s great to see people’s ability to move forward with their lives and to be part of that in a supportive role.
I enjoy doing this work because I get to help people. By fighting for them and getting them access to resources, I can help get them accessible housing and transportation; things that are important to enjoying a good quality of life.
I’m a huge believer that you have to give back to society, especially to what has supported you. I’ve enjoyed a good career, which has come as a result of acting for people who have sustained injuries and being involved and giving back has been a good way to show my support. In addition to the involvement in events over the years, our firm is also a sponsor of the Peer Support Program here in London. I wanted to support the hospital, too and over the past six years we’ve raised over $600,000, which goes directly to the Trauma unit (and helps people with spinal cord injuries).
Fundraising is important because there are a number of people with spinal cord injuries who aren’t able to access resources because they weren’t in a motor vehicle collision and there isn’t anyone that can be sued. I’m also trying to help these people whom I never see as clients, but have sustained a spinal cord injury and still deserve assistance, so I can help them through fundraising and donating.