An accident more than five years ago led to a spinal cord injury for Enzo Piscopo that left him without the ability to walk.
After undergoing a three month rehabilitation process at the Shepherd Center, a nonprofit specialty hospital in Atlanta, Piscopo maintains a level of independence that enables him to continue to work and support his family though his role as group director of Portfolio Innovation at Coca-Cola North America.
Piscopo learned that dispite his injury, he was fortunate to get immediate medical treatment. He later met the Rev. Thomas Gabula, a Catholic priest from Uganda at the rehabilitation center who had also suffered a spinal cord injury.
“The process Father Gabula underwent when he had his accident was very different than mine. While I was transported by helicopter to the hospital and operated on immediately, he rode on the back of a pick-up truck [to the hospital] and was incapacitated in a bed for two years, unable to continue working for his church,” said Piscopo.
The injustice of the situation led Piscopo to a foundation called Wheels of Happiness that sends medical supplies and hygiene products to individuals suffering with paralysis in Uganda and Kenya, countries where potable water is sometimes not even available.
“A lot of people ask me why I don’t dedicate this initiative to those suffering from my condition and who live in Georgia or the United States, and the answer is simple: thanks to the abundance we live with in this country, the basic needs of people like me are already taken care of. But in Africa this doesn’t happen,” Piscopo explained.
To date, beneficiaries of the program include a clinic in the village of Bamba, in Kenya, and three people in Mubende, Uganda. Since 2012, Wheels of Happiness has sent six medical care packages to these locations.
Carlos Samame, a young Peruvian student who lives in Lima and met Piscopo in 2013 at the State University of New York College at Buffalo, was in charge of one of these packages.
“Enzo presented the idea of reintegrating people with spinal cord injuries into their respective communities,” he said.”We started gaining an understanding of what people’s basic needs were, and we realized that health was a fundamental one but that it wasn’t guaranteed until they had basic supplies. Now I help him administer the Wheels of Happiness website.”
Dr. Anna Elmers, who works at the Shepherd Center, is proud of what her patient is doing for others.
“I think what Enzo is doing is awesome. He has taken his own unfortunate situation and made it into something positive for those who do not have the basic resources to manage their spinal cord injuries,” Elmers said.
Wendy Clark, for her part, is the president of Sparkling Brands and Strategic Marketing at Coca-Cola North America and has long been a loyal donor to this foundation.
“We donated to Wheels of Happiness because the funds being raised are making a real and immediate difference in people’s lives. We fundamentally believe that when many of us come together around meaningful initiatives we can make an impact far greater than any of us could do individually. Through the power of his spirit and energy, Enzo is convening people to make the world a better, happier place. What could be more important than that?”, said Clark.
Even though the purpose of Wheels of Happiness has always been to cover material needs, Enzo’s wife Gabriela Piscopo, said a secondary message is that “people with spinal cord injury can still contribute to society and for that reason, we shouldn’t turn our backs on them and we must help them to overcome.”
CONTINUED COVERAGEEach Saturday look for a feature story from our media partners at Mundo Hispanico that highlights an aspect of the Hispanic community. For a closer look at its content, go to www.mundohispanico.com or contact editors and reporters directly at 404-881-0441.