His Gifts, Our Inspiration and a Lasting Legacy
“My dad was the epitome of tireless perseverance,” says Ray Neilsen, Chairman of the Board. “His injury gave him laser-focus, and he became even more successful after the accident. My dad never saw himself as disabled, because although his body was damaged, in his mind, he was a triathlete.” Craig’s personal experiences ignited a passion to support the spinal cord injury field. As the vision for the Foundation evolved, he realized the tremendous impact the Foundation could have to improve the lives of others.
Craig Neilsen wanted his Foundation to contribute in a significant way to spinal cord injury research and education and to offer those affected by spinal cord injury the quality of life they deserve. In his own words, Craig inspired us by saying, “You have to find your inspiration for going on. For some it’s seeing someone worse off and thinking, well, it could be worse – at least I didn’t die. For others it’s hearing the voice of someone you love, promising to remain by your side. In my case, I got mad, and I think that helped me. Nobody cuts you any slack, and the fact that you just about killed yourself is no reason for any accommodation. I was forced to get active and get some things accomplished, because I had my family depending on me. It was not the easiest thing to do. You can decide that you don’t want to live your life, and a lot of people do that. But I think most people – when push comes to shove – take their hard knocks and then pick up the pieces and go on.”
His dedication to improve the lives of those affected by spinal cord injury and to support scientific exploration for effective therapies and treatments leading to a better quality of life still guide the Foundation’s work today.
“Though my dad’s lifestyle had been altered considerably, his ambition was unchanged,” Ray remembers. “For the next two decades, Craig’s vision, entrepreneurial spirit and inexhaustible passion helped him lead his companies to immeasurable successes.”