About Us 2018-12-13T14:27:11+00:00
Who We Are

The Southern California Chapter of the United Spinal Association is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization run entirely by volunteers.  Our focus is to help people rebuild their lives after a spinal cord injury or onset of a spinal cord related disease by providing a pathway to the resources, programs and services available for survivors and their families.

Mission Statement

Our mission is to support the employment and education of individuals with spinal cord injuries/diagnoses by providing the tools and community support to be successful in their work and personal lives.


Richard Hayden

Executive Director

My life took an interesting turn in the summer of 1976 when on the way home from work one day I left my motorcycle and sailed through the air introducing myself to a car coming the other way. Needless to say, we never did become friends.

A T-8 spinal cord injury gave me new perspective on life and with the gauntlet being thrown down, I accepted the challenge. My goal was to get my college degree and re-enter the workforce. My first degree was in Physical Education and my second in Business. The dynamic duo I thought and I was right, they led me to the rehab segment of the healthcare industry where I have been for the last 30 years. Getting a chance to meet so many incredible people and to get the opportunity to change a person’s life is incredibly rewarding. Three years ago, I was asked by United Spinal to start a Chapter in S. Ca. which after much thought I agreed. Awfully glad they asked, 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. I love being a part of that process. On the personal side, I have been married to my beautiful wife Karen for 30 years and have five incredible children (Rick, Richelle, Jenna, Aimee and Kyle) and four fantastic grand kids (Isabella, Lucas, Reese and Parker). My passion is to be involved with great organizations such as United Spinal that are doing great things within the disability community.

Celia Brewer

Vice President

Celia A. Brewer was appointed City Attorney for the City of Carlsbad in January 2013. Ms. Brewer has spent her legal career advising public agencies.

Prior to joining the City of Carlsbad, she was the Interim Port Attorney and Assistant Port Attorney for the San Diego Unified Port District. Ms. Brewer has also served as the Assistant General Counsel to the San Diego County Water Authority and the City Attorney for the City of Solana Beach. She is the current president and a past president of the San Diego County City Attorneys’ Association and a past member of the Legal Advocacy Committee of the League of California Cities. While in private practice, Ms. Brewer represented irrigation, water and community service districts as well as public non-profit charter schools. She served as a member of the board of directors of the King-Chavez Neighborhood of Schools, an independent 501 (c)(3) non-profit charter school network operator in the Barrio Logan neighborhood of San Diego from 2007-2013. She is also a Christopher Reeve Foundation certified peer mentor for people impacted by spinal cord injuries. In addition, she is a member of the San Diego satellite team supporting the “Swim With Mike” scholarship fund for physically challenged athletes.

Karen McCord, MPT


Karen McCord is a physical therapist at Rady Children’s Hospital, San Diego. Karen specializes in the areas of brain injury, rehabilitation, spinal cord injuries and defects, arthrogryposis, neonatal intensive care, durable medical equipment, splinting/orthotics, and developmental delay.

Karen is the lead PT for Rady’s Rehab Team, consults in the Acquired Brain Injury Clinic, Spinal Cord Injury Clinic, and Spinal Defects Clinic, and provides physical therapy to newborns and infants in the NICU. In recent years, prior to coming back to San Diego, Karen worked at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy in Portola Valley, and California Children Services in San Mateo. Karen received her undergraduate degree in Social Ecology at the University of a California, Irvine and her Physical Therapy degree at the University of California at San Francisco. She is married to Mark Sullivan and they have 2 daughters, Janika and Julia. Karen enjoys volunteering with various adaptive sports organizations including Challenged Athletes Foundation, Life Rolls On, and Wheels 2 Water. She enjoys playing adult co-ed water polo, ocean swimming, sea glassing, biking at the beach, traveling and crafting in her free time.

Andrew Skalsky, M.D.

Executive Board Member

Dr. Skalsky received his medical degree at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine.

His internship and residency training was at the University of California (UC)-Davis in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He stayed at UC-Davis for a fellowship in neuromuscular medicine and pediatric rehabilitation. He is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation, neuromuscular medicine, pediatric rehabilitation medicine and electrodiagnostic medicine. Dr. Skalsky is the Chief of Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine at Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego and an Associate Professor at the University of California San Diego.

Mary Thompson, MSW

Executive Board Member

Mary Thompson is a licensed clinical social worker at Sharp Rehabilitation Center in San Diego where she has held a variety of administrative and professional positions since 1991.

She serves newly-injured SCI patients as well as those with other types of physical and cognitive injuries and illnesses. Mary has a C8 complete SCI as a result of a car accident in 1982. She is a three time Paralympian and won a bronze medal in Seoul in 1988. She has completed over 135 marathons all across the U.S., Europe and Asia and is one of only two wheelchair racers who are legacy competitors having completed 32 consecutive Los Angeles marathons. She also finished the 367-mile Alaska Sun Midnight Marathon in her race chair. In 1998, she completed the GTE Big Ride, a 3,200 mile bike ride across the US in 48 days. In 1994 she was selected as the San Diego Disabled Athlete of the Year by the San Diego Hall of Champions.

Jeff Logan

Executive Board Member

Jeff suffered a Spinal Cord Injury from a diving accident when he was 22 years old. He willingly shares his experience to mentor others who need help coping with their own disability.

Since his accident he has earned a BA in Psychology, a MA in Education, participated in adaptive sports, and traveled the country. He is experienced with MTS in San Diego and knowledgeable on other transportation options for people with disabilities. His hobbies and interests include pool, darts, poker, reading, and sports.

Chelle Struve

Executive Board Member

Chelle Struve is an accomplished marketing and advertising professional specializing in integrated marketing programs.

These include social, print, broadcast and digital production, multicultural campaigns, product launches, market research, media placement and branding for business-to-business and consumer national accounts in agency, nonprofit and corporate settings. She has produced award winning campaigns for Toyota, Mattel, AMN Healthcare, Embassy Suites and Foothill Transit. Her nonprofit experience includes her previous role as Director of Marketing at Challenged Athletes Foundation (CAF) and client San Diego VeloYouth. She is currently Director of Strategic Accounts at LAK Advertising.


Candace Cable

Advisory Board Member

Candace is grateful for her spinal cord injury in 1975 at the age of 21 that resulted in the use of a wheelchair for her to be mobile in the world.

This type of mobility is responsible for her 27-year athletic career of 9 Paralympic Games appearances where she gained 12 medals in 3 sports, winning 84 marathons and becoming the first American woman to win medals in both the summer and winter games in 1992. All this has given her the “universally inclusive language” platform of sport, to create a second career speaking about how to uncork the necessary conversations about the need for social justice and human rights of people with disabilities to participate in our global humanity.

Candace continues those conversations as inclusion consultant and Chief Creative Officer for Social Cohesion Resources. She develops workshops, consultations and keynote addresses around the idea that understanding disability is an asset and critical for creating success and inclusion for all people to contribute and thrive in this twenty-first century global society. Candace provides insights to UNICEF’s global partnerships on inclusive education and adapted sport. She attends and contributes to the growth during the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities conferences.

Candace believes that spending time with disabled people is pivotal to create inclusion and she works as a universal access trainer with Open Doors Organization for the travel and tourism industries. She shares these messages hosting webcasts, created videos and writing a blog for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Recently she was the acting director of Paralympic and Disability Engagement for the successful bid to bring the Paralympic and Olympic Games to Los Angeles in 2028 and is currently working on recommendations for education programs for the new LA2028 OCOG, the organizing committee.

Candace is a member and volunteer on the board of directors for the US International Council on Disability – USICD, the Southern California Olympian and Paralympian Association – SCOPA and the US Olympian and Paralympian Association – USOPA. She served as the Athlete Services Coordinator for 2010 Winter Paralympic Games in Vancouver Canada and during the 2012-2016 quad on the USOC Athlete Advisory Council.

David Erickson, OTR/L

Advisory Board Member

As a faculty member at the renowned Loma Linda University School of Medicine (LLUSM), Department of Pediatric NeuroScience, David G. Erickson’s passion for whole person care jells perfectly with the university’s mission – to make man whole.

He incorporates this philosophy as he manages a caseload of 500 patients at LLUSM’s Muscular Dystrophy Clinic. Mr. Erickson is also a consulting Occupational Therapist at Angel View Children’s Foundation, which operates 18 six-bed residential homes (ICF-DD/H/N/CN and CLHF licensed), and at Mountain Shadows, which operates 27 group homes, combined these companies serve more than 275 children and adults; Mr. Erickson’s hands-on philosophy and positive outlook help to ensure the highest quality of life possible for these residents/patients. Mr. Erickson sits on two Boards with Mountain Shadows; their Operating and Foundation Boards. He also consults at several other organizations, including Christopher Ranch, an ICF-DD/H facility, and the Angel View Day Program. Prior to this, Mr. Erickson acted as Chief Supervising Therapist for California Children’s Services (CCS), where he administered the CCS program to a caseload of 4,000-5,000 pediatric patients.Mr. Erickson has been recognized for clinical excellence by the Occupational Therapy Association of California. In 1999, he was selected as one of ten “Community Heroes” by the San Bernardino County Sun Newspaper for making a positive difference in the community.Mr. Erickson is a founding Board Member of the Valley of the Falls Community Center inc., in Forest Falls where he makes his home. He is the lead Fire Auxiliary coordinator for the local San Bernardino County Fire Department there in Forest Falls.Mr. Erickson was awarded a Bachelor’s Degree in Occupational Therapy from Loma Linda University, School of Allied Health Professions, Department of Occupational Therapy. He is registered with the National Certification Board for Occupational Therapists and holds a current license with the California Board of Occupational Therapy.

Richard Green, LCSW

Advisory Board Member

Richard has been a social worker at Sharp Rehabilitation Hospital in San Diego for 37 years working with the SCI population.

He is co-founder of the San Diego Brain Injury Foundation and facilitates the Men with SCI Network group that meets monthly at Sharp. Richard is the Sharp Rehab liaison with the United Spinal Association.

John Box

Advisory Board Member

John is an innovator and creator displaying his creative designs as founder of Colours Wheelchair.

John’s SCI came in 1981 and he has dedicated himself to improving the lives of the disabled community since. He pushed the limits with a cutting edge marketing campaign while at the head of Colours getting the attention of the community and showing that this was a movement, that living life to the fullest and pushing the boundaries of what the disabled population is “supposed to be” will break down the attitudinal barriers and change the negative stereotypes.

Kathy Dunn, RN

Advisory Board Member

Kathleen L. Dunn, MS,RN,CRRN,CNS-BC received her BSN from Humboldt State University (California) and her Masters in Rehabilitation Nursing from Rush University (Chicago, IL).

She has over 43 years’ experience in orthopedic and rehabilitation nursing as a staff nurse, nurse educator, clinical nurse specialist, program coordinator and case manager, specializing further in spinal cord injury care for the last 34 years. She worked at Sharp Rehab Center from 1976-1981 and 1982-1988. She retired in 2017 as the clinical nurse specialist and rehabilitation case manager for the Spinal Cord Injury Center at the Veterans Affairs San Diego Healthcare System in San Diego, California. She was recruited to open this center and guided development of all clinical programs from 1989-2017. She is an honorary life member of the Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA). She was the 2003 Clinical Nurse Specialist of the Year for the National Association of Clinical Nurse Specialists, and was selected as the Advanced Practice Nurse of the Year in 2008 by the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses. In 2008 she was inducted into the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame (NSCIA). She was awarded the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Nursing Excellence Award (Expanded Role) in 2012. She has represented both the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses and AASCIN/ASCIP on the Steering Committee for the Consortium of Spinal Cord Injury Medicine. She has served as a as the lead SCI-Nurse moderator for on-line discussion forums for people with SCI for the www.CareCure.org website since 1997. Currently she does some consulting including legal nurse consultant.

Doreen Casuto, RN, MRA, CRRN, CCM, CLCP

Advisory Board Member

Doreen Casuto has 42 years of experience in the field of rehabilitation nursing providing patient cam, education, and coordination of services.

She has 30 years of experience as an independent case manager working with catastrophically injured children and adults. She has over 25 years’ experience preparing Life Care Plans and testifying in regards to the client’s current and future health care needs. Specialty: Spinal Cord Injury, Brain Injury, Chronic Pain, Neuromuscular Disorder.

Haydee Pena

Advisory Board Member

Steve Goldman

Advisory Board Member

At age four I contracted polio, which affected the use of my legs. From then on, until 1997, I had walked on braces and crutches. In 1997 I had back complications and am now very active while using a wheelchair full time.

My education included an M.S. in Business from Long Island University in Brooklyn. During my college years and beyond I played wheelchair basketball with professional teams and had many great moments competing around the country, winning a national championship once.Soon after college I moved to southern California where I began what became my 27-year career in the “Medical Equipment” industry. Our specialization was in the “long-term rehabilitation” area. As a manager, I also got involved in sales, which put me in direct contact with disabled children, their parents, teachers and healthcare providers. Again, many of these relationships have lasted until today.Since retiring from full-time work in the medical business in 1997, I have been involved in helping out some of my old competitors when projects come up. To keep busy I volunteer as a “Citizenship Tutor” and am on The Accessible Advisory Committee for The Port of San Diego. In the past I have served on the boards of The M.S. Society and United Cerebral Palsy. In addition, have been a mentor for disabled teenagers.