Sabrina Cohen still remembers the afternoon along Miami Beach’s Ocean Drive when she saw a vacationing family frolicking on the beach and in the water while one family member remained alone on the boardwalk. “That person was confined to a wheelchair, and all they could do was watch while the family enjoyed themselves.”
Thus was born The Sabrina Cohen Foundation in 2006, a 501c3 non-profit organization dedicated to developing adaptive fitness and recreational programs and innovative therapies that will provide a better quality of life for people living with paralysis and various disabilities.
“There has been a huge focus on research and treatment, which is very important, but the missing piece has been providing even greater opportunities to improve the quality of life of the disabled population, and that is the main focus of The Sabrina Cohen Foundation,” says Sabrina Cohen, the organization’s president and founder.
In 2016, the foundation initiated its “Adaptive Beach Days” program and has since welcomed thousands of disabled participants and families to twice-monthly events for full access to the beach and ocean. Using a platform of decks placed over the sand by dozens of volunteers, specially adapted wheelchairs are able to reach the water’s edge, where those who wish to enjoy the ocean are helped into the water by volunteers. They can float, snorkel and swim, or simply relax and enjoy the sunshine.
The next Adaptive Beach Day is scheduled for Sunday, May 5, 2019 from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. The location is 64th Street and Collins Avenue on Miami Beach. Beach Towing is sponsoring the May 5th event.
In 1992, Cohen was 14 years old when the car she was riding in was involved in a serious car crash. She suffered a severe spinal cord injury that has left her confined to a wheelchair and changed her life forever. Through hard work and determination, she finished high school on time, graduated from the University of Miami and earned a post-graduate degree. Since then, she’s launched businesses, been interviewed on most major news stations and spoken on behalf of the disabled population at the United Nations.
Her next project is leading a $10 million capital campaign to raise the funds needed to build the nation’s first fully accessible “Adaptive Recreation Center” on Miami Beach which will serve as a one-of-a-kind access point for people with disabilities to enjoy a full array of modified fitness activities plus access to the ocean and beach, year-round.
“The City of Miami Beach has supported this project every step of the way and have graciously provided us with a site at 53rd Street and Collins Avenue,” says Cohen. “Once we raise the needed funds, we will build a three-story, 16,000 square-foot adaptive recreation center offering fully accessible exercise equipment, group yoga, meditation and nutrition classes, an adaptive children’s playground, and full access to the beach and ocean.”
Internationally acclaimed architect Kobi Karp has designed the facility on a pro bono basis featuring an innovative wrap-around ramp for wheelchairs and a rooftop swimming pool.
“Our adaptive recreation center will be the first of its kind in the country, a model for other cities to follow, representing inclusion and empowerment in the lives of the disabled population,” said Cohen. “The depth and magnitude of this project is historic and has the potential to change many lives. It’s a project that is needed and very doable, and we’re doing it.”
For more information about The Sabrina Cohen Foundation and Adaptive Beach Days, or to make a donation to the Capital Campaign for the Adaptive Recreation Center, please visit www.sabrinacohenfoundation.org.