Craig H. Neilsen
Visionary Prize

The Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize launched in 2020 to celebrate influential voices in the world of spinal cord injury. The Prize was created to honor the legacy of Craig H. Neilsen and is awarded to individuals who embody the values that were important to him during his lifetime.
Each prize winner is awarded $1 million, respectively.

2021 Visionary Prize Recipients

a white woman with long, light brown hair, sits strapped into her manual wheelchair, wearing a light shirt with striped long-sleeves and documents hanging on the wall behind her.

Kim Anderson-Erisman, PhD

Kim Anderson-Erisman, PhD, is the Director of the Northeast Ohio Regional SCI Model System based at the MetroHealth Rehabilitation Institute. She is a Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the MetroHealth Medical Center and Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) School of Medicine. Her research has focused on translational investigations and bridging the gap between basic science, clinical science, and the public community living with spinal cord injury (SCI). Dr. Anderson-Erisman is a founding member and serves as the President of the North American Spinal Cord Injury Consortium (NASCIC), a consumer advocacy group.

Her training spans the spectrum of SCI research, from cellular and molecular studies to whole animal and behavioral studies, to human clinical research. Having lived with cervical SCI for over 32 years, she has leveraged her lived experience to help guide research to be more relevant to the broader population living with SCI.  Several of her studies have focused on obtaining the perspective of people living with SCI on various aspects of research, including functional priorities, acceptable benefits and risks, preferences for neuroprosthetics, and exercise participation. She has expertise in SCI outcome measures and has conducted a multi-center clinical study evaluating the reliability and validity of the Spinal Cord Independence Measure in the US healthcare setting, which is now the outcome measure for global function used in clinical trials. In addition to pursuing her own research regarding chronic injury, she was part of the leadership team running the 6 FDA-regulated Schwann cell transplantation clinical trials while a faculty member at the University of Miami. At MetroHealth-CWRU she is continuing her leadership in clinical trials of new interventions for SCI and further developing her independent research efforts addressing issues important to people living with SCI, with an emphasis on translational research to deploy treatments to the clinic and to the community.

a Black man in his mid-30s with a dark beard and mustache and a smile in his eyes. He is wearing a black sweatshirt and a silver chain around his neck.

Wesley Hamilton

Wesley Hamilton is the Founder and CEO of Disabled But Not Really (DBNR), a non-profit with a mission to instill in the underserved “disabled” community, a physically limitless mindset that breeds courage, confidence, and competence. He aims to create an environment where anyone that is limited by circumstances beyond their control has a safe and inspiring place for growth. He accomplishes this through a focus on community engagement events with an emphasis on nutrition, fitness, and lifestyle, promoting a healthy and independent way of living. DBNR also partners with other community events to raise awareness about the role of good mental and physical health in overcoming life’s challenges. A scholarship program was created for individuals to have ongoing access to nutrition and fitness classes. DBNR also supports Kansas City’s homeless population, providing dignity care packages, water, and food.

Wesley was featured in Season 4 of the Netflix show Queer Eye where he sat with the man who shot him for a conversation. He says that the show “taught me how to be true to myself, and I was humbled by the experience.” Wesley has played an important role representing the Tommy Hilfiger Adaptive Clothing Line. With over 130,000 social media followers, Wesley is helping to raise the expectations for a broader range of products that are specifically designed for individuals with disabilities and is forcing other companies to take notice.

a multiracial Black woman with coffee-colored skin and short curly brown and golden hair, leans forward resting her cheek on her hand. She wears a black shirt and a gold necklace and smiles at the viewer. Photo by Beverlie Lord.

Alice Sheppard

Alice Sheppard is an internationally recognized dancer, choreographer, and founder of the disability arts ensemble Kinetic Light. She studied ballet and modern dance with Kitty Lunn and started her career performing with Infinity Dance Theater and AXIS Dance Company.

As Bessie award-winning choreographer, Sheppard creates movement that challenges conventional understandings of disabled and dancing bodies. In 2016, Alice founded Kinetic Light, a disability arts ensemble featuring herself, Jerron Herman, Laurel Lawson and Michael Maag. Working in the disciplines of art, technology, design, and dance, Kinetic Light creates, performs, and teaches at the nexus of access, queerness, disability, dance, and race. In the company’s work, intersectional disability is an aesthetic, a culture, and an essential element of artistry.

In addition to performance and choreography, Sheppard is a sought-after speaker and has lectured on topics related to disability arts, race, and dance. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, academic journals, and the anthology Disability Visibility, edited by Alice Wong.

Good Morning America - Wesley Hamilton

About the Prize

The Craig H. Neilsen Visionary Prize was established in 2020 to honor the memory and legacy of our Founder, Craig H. Neilsen. Created to reflect his dreams for the spinal cord injury (SCI) community, Prize recipients are influential voices for the world of SCI, unafraid to take bold risks. They also show great potential to expand or advocate for new ideas to enrich lives affected by SCI.

The Prize highlights values that were important to Craig in his lifetime. Recipients reflect many of the qualities that Craig was well known for, such as extraordinary determination, inexhaustible passion, and an ability to inspire. This unrestricted $1 million award is meant to draw attention to and celebrate passionate individuals advancing the world of SCI.

Selection Process

Nominators solicited by the Foundation
The Foundation DOES NOT accept unsolicited nominations for the Prize.
Selection Committee evaluation
The names of the nominators, nominees, and Selection Committee members will not be disclosed.
Awardees announced
Prize winners will later be announced publicly on our website.

The Ideal Nominee

Individuals are chosen based on the influence and distinctiveness of the person’s contributions. There is no restriction on the specific profession of people considered for this Prize, as the world of SCI is made up of artists, athletes, clinicians, scientists, writers, and others. Ideal Prize nominees are mid-career individuals committed to SCI, with the potential to remain influential in the field as their work continues to evolve.

The Foundation does not accept unsolicited nominations for the Prize.

Nominations emphasize:

  • A body of work that has positively affected the SCI community and demonstrates creative/out-of-the-box thinking
  • Reflection/embodiment of the Foundation’s values
  • Potential to make an impact on people living with SCI
  • Ability to facilitate the nominee’s growth and influence on the SCI community

Prize Eligibility:

  • The individuals must live and work in the U.S. or Canada
  • Nominees can come from any field, but must have a meaningful connection to the SCI community