The Advocacy Team are a group of individuals committed to improving the quality of life for others, to guide the way to greater independence through advocacy. Areas of focus are:
- Connecting people to resources
- Peer mentoring and support
- Access and independence
- Organizations that offer activities of interest
- Event planning
- Sharing of information on upcoming events
The Advocacy Team has a strong connection with our community hitting the streets and engaging in quality conversation that allow them to determine what needs are not being met, what obstacles are still in the way so that we as an organization can advocate to get those needs met and to break down the barriers that we sometimes still face in our day to day journey towards independence and a better quality of life.
San Diego County
Timothy “Tim” Vondersaar graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Cultural Anthropology at
CalPoly Pomona. He co-founded and was president of a chapter of Nourish International, a
non-profit organization that raises funds and conducts projects designed to eliminate hunger
and poverty. He is now a student of the Rehabilitation Counseling master’s program at SDSU
and will start an internship at the Sharp Memorial Rehabilitation Center to gain experience in
creating a positive client/counselor relationship. In the future, he would love to work for the
Community College District where he can help young adults get on a path of meaningful
employment rather than live on benefits.
Tim grew up on a farm in Salem, Oregon, where he spent most of his time going on bike rides
and playing in the backyard forest with his three siblings. He was a competitive gymnast all
through his early teenage years until he broke his neck during a trick on a trampoline which
left him a C6/C7 quadriplegic. Tim received intensive rehabilitation at Emanuel Children’s
Hospital in Portland, Oregon for three months until he was released home. He spent four
summers at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, California, where he did inpatient
therapy and tried out a lot of different wheelchair sports. He moved down to West Covina,
California, in 2000 to go to college and escape the rain of the Great Northwest.
Before his accident, Tim had been a drummer in a rock band, a singer in a choir and a
dancer. He was a drum major for his marching band in his wheelchair following his accident
and even continued playing his trombone in the wind ensemble with which he was invited to
play in Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia. He still loves music and is now learning how to
play the harmonica.
Ten years after his injury, Tim struggled with severe pain from the plate that was put in during
the first surgery to stabilize his neck. The plate had started to rub against his esophagus and
required surgery to remove it. During that surgery, his esophagus was torn and caused a life threatening infection from head to chest. The neurosurgeons had made a mistake. It was an
ENT surgeon who saved Tim’s life. In an attempt to improve some physical function, Tim
underwent stem cell treatment in Panama in 2014.
In 2017, Tim married his wife Cerrah, who had found him on YouTube and reached out to him.
They went on a road trip all over California on their first date and decided to move in together.
She came all the way from Berlin, Germany, with her cat to live with Tim and their two dogs in
San Diego. Tim and Cerrah are planning a support group for interabled couples.
Ania is the newest board member and the chapter advocacy representative. Ania represents the spina bifida community. She grew up in San Diego and attended the San Diego Adaptive Sports and Recreations summer camp as far back as 1992 and has since made the transition to counselor/mentor.
Ania recently completed her undergraduate degree in Kinesiology and entered into a graduate program, both at SDSU.
Ania's passion is dancing, specifically fitness dance. She is a certified World of Dance (WOD), U-Jam dance instructor and has plans to start an all-inclusive dance fitness WOD U-Jam program. Ania will inject a new level of energy into Spinal Network.
San Diego County
San Diego County
In September 2003, at the age of 44, Martin became a member of the spinal cord injury club, a club with no waiting list. A car accident resulted in a C-7 spinal cord injury. At the time, he worked as a financial analyst having received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from San Diego State University in 1988. Later in 1998 he received a Juris Doctorate from USD School of Law.
Since becoming injured, Martin spent many years adjusting to his new life. In 2010, he began attending the Challenge Center in La Mesa, to continue his rehabilitation with work-outs and therapy on a stationary bike using Functional Electrical Stimulation (FES). His insurance-sponsored rehabilitation was at Sharp Rehabilitation October through December 2003.
Regarding his personal life; Martins beautiful wife, Marie and he married in 2012. They met at several events sponsored by Sharp Rehabilitation and hosted by Richard Green, a social worker at Sharp Rehab. They have been involved with the United Spinal Association since attending their first Roll on Capitol Hill (R.O.C.H.) in 2017. They also attended R.O.C.H. in 2018. During the summer of 2018 Martin and Marie spent six weeks exploring the country on the drive to and from Washington, D.C. They have four grown children, and five grandchildren (from a previous marriage).
Martin has been working four months a year as a tax preparer with H & R Block since 2016. Getting more involved with Southern California Chapter to help those newly injured by helping them achieve a better quality of live, is his objective.
Nadine Boyce is a wheelchair user. She has a BA in Economics from UCSB and a Professional Certificate in Marketing and Event Planning from SDSU CES. In 2007, while working 2 jobs and taking care of her 3 children, she was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Nadine was devastated by the diagnosis. During the removal of the brain tumor she suffered a stroke. At the time she lost everything including her kids.
It took 4 yrs to regain some balance in her life. In 2012 Nadine made the decision to pursue a more normal life knowing that it was going to be a long process. She started her journey by attending Sharp Rehabilitation Centers Women on Wheels support group, as well as Y.E.S.S (Young Enthusiastic Stroke Survivor) where she discovered valuable resources that would be a great benefit to her and her new Rolling life.
Ania Flatau introduced Nadine to the Southern California Chapter of United Spinal and invited her to a Meet & Greet, well she was hooked. It was a great opportunity to meet new people and to learn about resources that would help her along her journey to greater independence. It is Nadine's goal as an advocate, to help others make this transition both quicker and smoother than hers. She enjoys helping others and feels blessed to be able to do It.
San Diego County
San Diego County
James "Jim" Weber is a C6/7 quadriplegic who was injured in an auto accident here in San Diego in 1985. He was 19 years old at the time and just 4 months into his Navy career. Jim was a passenger in the vehicle when the driver fell asleep at the wheel. He spent 6 months at Sharp Rehab, receiving intensive rehabilitation before being discharged and settling in El Cajon, California
The first few years he spent rediscovering himself and figuring out what his body was capable of and basically figuring out what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. In 1994, at the coaxing of family and friends, he decided to go back to school and enrolled at Grossmont College to earn an associate's degree in computer science. Jim now works in the computer industry building and repairing computers, creating websites, and is a graphic designer. His hobbies are video gaming, photography, reading and now, blogging.
In 2018 Jim decided to become a peer mentor because he wanted to show other people with spinal cord injuries that they can not only survive, but thrive and have a long fulfilling life. He didn’t have a peer mentor in the early stages of his recovery and understood how valuable peer mentors can be to the newly injured. Jim created a YouTube channel where he creates and posts videos that are geared towards helping other people with spinal cord injuries, showing tips on wheelchair transfers, pressure relief, dressing, etc.
Jim attends the men's SCI group at Sharp Rehabilitation and volunteers his time visiting some of the patients there as well. Jim became a member of the Southern California Chapter so that he could become more involved in helping elsewhere within the SCI community. He is looking to start a coed spinal cord injury group in east county in the not too distant future, stay tuned and we’ll let you know when and where the meetings will be.
Ysais brings his expertise to the Spinal Network family as co-facilitator of the Spanish Speaking Support Group. His understanding of the SCI world and the impact on family and friends will have a positive impact on this group as he leads this group towards a greater sense of independence.
San Diego County
In February of 2012 Alexander Vera dove into a pool and broke his neck resulting in quadriplegia. He grew up in the S. Orange county community of San Clemente. Even though he grew up near the beach, he's not a fan of the water.
Alexander moved to Texas for a while, a big change from the S. California lifestyle of San Clemente. Alexander's Dad was involved in off road racing there and being around that spawned a lifelong love for racing, desert trips and fast cars. Alexander and his Dad were involved with Norman Motorsports where they won the Baja 1000, a large off road event. Alexander still, to this day, loves being around cars and helping his friends troubleshoot issues on their vehicles. Alexander is in the process of building his own pre-runner so that he can continue to enjoy the desert.
Alexander is taking courses online currently and hopes that they lead to an opportunity in the racing industry.
Alexander is a great addition to our chapter and he will be involved with our social media program. Alexander is looking to the future and the opportunities it holds.
Ricks life took an interesting turn in the summer of 1976 when on the way home from work one day he left his motorcycle and sailed through the air introducing himself to a car coming the other way. Needless to say, they never did become friends. A T-8 spinal cord injury gave Rick new perspective on life and with the gauntlet being thrown down, he accepted the challenge.
Ricks goal was to get his college degree and re-enter the workforce. His first degree was in Physical Education with the second being in Business. The dynamic duo he thought and he was right, they led him to the rehab segment of the healthcare industry where he worked for the last 30+ years. Rick stated that getting the chance to meet so many incredible people and to get the opportunity to change a person’s life is incredibly rewarding. Three years ago, Rick was asked by United Spinal to start a Chapter in S. Ca. which after much thought he agreed. Awfully glad they asked he thought, being part of a team of dedicated people whose mission is to provide resources that will have a positive impact on a person’s life and the lives of those around them. he loves being a part of that process.
On the personal side, Rick has been married to his beautiful wife Karen for 31 years and has five incredible children (Rick, Richelle, Jenna, Aimee and Kyle) and four fantastic grandkids (Isabella, Lucas, Reese and Parker). Ricks passion is to be involved with great organizations such as United Spinal that are doing great things within the disability community.