Founder Letter: Giving Back and Moving Forward: How Disaster Relief is Changing Rehab Therapy for the Better

’Tis officially the holiday season—a time for sharing meals with friends and family, reflecting on the year that’s passed, and setting goals and intentions for positive change in the year ahead. For me, this season always feels ripe with possibility—like I can accomplish anything I set my mind (and heart) to. This year, I’m channeling those positive vibes into #RehabTherapistsGiveBack—the movement to help individuals, families, and communities impacted by the recent hurricanes and wildfires that devastated areas across the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean. After all, what better way to celebrate all the good things in our lives than by coming together—as an industry—to help those in need? With that in mind, here’s what you should know about this important opportunity for rehab therapists to effect real change:

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This hurricane season was devastating.

If you thought the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season seemed unusually intense, you were right. In just a few short weeks, four hurricanes (all Category 4s and 5s) made landfall in the US, Puerto Rico, and the Caribbean, causing massive destruction. In addition to taking the lives of more than 260 people, hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria caused approximately $300 billion in damage. Experts believe it could take more than a decade for Puerto Rico to fully recover from the storms, and The Washington Post described the Caribbean island of Barbuda as “a wasteland.” In the US, affected cities in both Texas and Florida are seeing signs of recovery, but many people are still displaced—and, in the words of CNN, “struggling to make mortgage payments on homes made uninhabitable by the storms, while paying rent somewhere else.” It should come as no surprise, then, that USA Today deemed this the “costliest Atlantic hurricane season ever.”

As were the wildfires.

Around the same time, a slew of intense wildfires burned their way through parts of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Colorado, and California, leading news outlets to predict that the 2017 wildfire season was “shaping up to be one of the worst in U.S. history for land burned.” Then, in early October, another series of fires broke out in Sonoma, Napa, and Mendocino Counties in California, killing 42 people, injuring 185, and burning more than 245,000 acres of land, including almost 7,000 homes, buildings, and wineries. On October 30, 2017—almost a month after the fires first began—more than 1,000 firefighters were still on the frontlines, trying to subdue the remaining five fires. It was the deadliest string of wildfires in the state’s history, and according to Fortune, the damages from the northern California wildfires alone will top $3 billion.

Our friends, colleagues, and fellow humans need our help.

Here at WebPT Headquarters—in almost-always-sunny Phoenix, Arizona—we’re lucky not to run into much in terms of natural disasters. But, that’s not the case for many of our customers—and our employees’ families—who experienced the effects of these calamities first-hand in the form of clinic closures, floods, and evacuations. In fact, at our annual Ascend business summit, Kathy Swanick, president of the Florida Physical Therapy Association, and Felicia Wenah, Houston native and physical therapy student at the University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences in Austin, Texas, shared personal stories about how these disasters have impacted their respective communities.

And it’s going to take all of us to create real change.

In the wake of all of this destruction and heartbreak, WebPT took action in alignment with our core value of giving back. As part of our Member Assist program—which we began after the Joplin, Missouri tornado in 2011—we outfitted affected WebPT Members with the clinic supplies and consumables they needed to get back up and running quickly, for themselves and their patients. But, given the unimaginable amount of destruction that’s happened in such a short period of time, that simply wasn’t enough—which is why we decided to do more. As part of Rehab Therapists Give Back (RTGB), we’re challenging the entire rehab therapy community to come together to help raise $1 million for the people and communities impacted by these recent disasters.

This isn’t a WebPT thing; it’s a rehab therapy community thing.

And the outpouring of support we’ve received has been absolutely heartwarming. In fact, we’ve already banked more than $83,000—and we have a whole lot more committed from individual providers and practices, organizations, and even competitors, including the APTA, Chris and Heidi Powell, ATI Physical Therapy, BMS, Casamba, Optima, Performance Health, Clinicient, Rick Gawenda, Hays, Knack, Practice Promotions, ReminderCall.com, ReDoc/Net Health, and the Hoffmans. You see, this isn’t a WebPT thing; it’s a rehab therapy community thing. And this generous response from our community shows that when we, as rehab therapists, align with a worthy cause—a higher purpose, if you will—there’s no limit to what we can accomplish for the greater good. As rehab therapists—and rehab therapy supporters—we’re all driven by a deep desire to help people. It’s why many of us chose this profession in the first place. Well, this marks an opportunity—a defining moment, really—to channel that drive into action for people who desperately need our help.

Will you join the movement?

Even with the generous support we’ve received thus far, we still have a long way to go to reach our goal. After all, raising $1 million dollars is no easy feat—even when it’s for such an important cause. But, it’s worth every bit of effort required, because people need us. Our fellow humans need us. So please, join the movement by giving what you can—every donation counts—and sharing this link (globalgiving.org/rehab-therapists-give-back) to help spread the word. The more people involved in this, the better. Let’s see how far we can reach.

We can channel this momentum to do even more.

The support we’ve seen in response to RTGB proves that there is strength in our numbers—that our community can initiate real, meaningful, powerful change when we set aside our differences and band together. We’ve seen how unified our industry becomes in the face of a worthy cause. Well, we’re facing a host of worthy causes right now—all of which require us to unite behind a common mission. That’s why it’s so important that we keep this spirit of change alive in the form of advocacy. Because this is exactly the kind of collaboration and cooperation we’ll need to continue moving this profession forward—to actually bring to fruition the things we’ve been working toward for so many years. This is especially true with respect to our efforts in the legislative arena for things like:

Together, we’re a powerful force.

With RTGB, the rehab therapy community has shown what it can achieve in the presence of a deeper purpose. And all of these initiatives fall into that category, which means we must keep this fire lit through 2018 and beyond. That means getting involved at the community, state, and national levels—and adding your voice to the growing number of rehab professionals who are actively pursuing positive change. We simply must stay passionate, confident in our abilities, and hungry to make a difference.


I know I have a lot to be thankful for in my life this holiday season, and I’d imagine that most of you who are reading this right now have a lot to be thankful for, too. So, let’s give back to those who need our help the most. Then, let’s channel that positive momentum into bringing about the changes in our profession that will positively impact our own lives as well as those of our patients. The time is now.


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