It was a tragedy. A strong, athletic, virile young 25-year-old heads to the snow to do some snowboarding, but an accident brings
him home with life-changing disabilities. Andrew Skinner of Canyon Country was now quadriplegic.
“This injury kind of left me like a newborn,” said Skinner. “I had to learn how to do everything myself…then returning to the community and reintegrating into activities and sports and things. I had a lot of training and a lot of people who had gone through this before me.”
Skinner’s brother and his wife, Kirsten, urged him to use his new knowledge and understanding, in part to fill some of the gaps in care that people with spinal cord injuries were experiencing. In 2008 Triumph Foundation was born.
“When we first started I never dreamed it’d become the force it’s become now,” said Skinner. “I never dreamed I’d be a philanthropist.”
It began when they simply began visitations at a hospital in Northridge. “We’d meet people with different needs, and we’d try to solve them,” he said. “Then it was one more hospital and one more hospital, and now we’re going to a dozen different rehab centers and hospitals. Every year we grow.”
Financed mostly through individual donors, Triumph’s biggest fundraiser each year is a “Casino Night” in July at the Hyatt Regency in Valencia.
“We wanted to do something fun and social,” said Skinner. “We’ve gone to a lot of other fundraisers and you sit at a table and eat dinner, but you don’t get to mingle and get to know people. We really get to meet some of the people who have been impacted by our organization. It’s more of a family atmosphere. I’m not a big gambler, but its fun — it’s like playing games.”
Skinner quit his job two years ago as a “leap of faith” to work for the foundation full-time. He goes after more grants and other funding, also planning events and getting sponsors for them.
“It’s a labor of love,” he said. “We run about a dozen support groups all over Southern California – most once a month. I also get lots of calls and emails from people needing mentorship, many who are newly injured. There is also a cycling clinic every month — we do sports every week.”
There are close to 3,000 individuals in Triumph Foundation’s network. In addition to Skinner’s family members, who work tirelessly for the foundation and serve on the board of directors, there are approximately 20 core members who are “ambassadors,” who get involved with a major hospital outreach, for instance.
Meet Triumph’s Ambassadors at Tell Me More tab.
Andrew Skinner’s wife, Kirsten, gave up a promising corporate job after the accident. She quit to stay by Andrew’s side. Later, she got an early childhood development degree and started teaching at Kindercare. Kirsten is now the assistant director there.
“It puts things in perspective,” said Andrew, regarding Kirsten’s life and career direction. “She wanted to do something fulfilling, more purposeful than just punching a timecard.”
Meet the Skinner’s little girl, Betty, and learn more about Triumph click on Tell Me More.