Bryon Riesch is almost grateful for the spinal-cord injury in 1998 that left him a quadriplegic—because while the impact on his body was devastating, the effect on his sense of purpose was equally rejuvenating.
“Striving to make a difference has given true meaning to my life,” said Riesch, who founded the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation (BRPF) in 2001 and serves as its president. “It has helped define who I am, and given me the opportunity to positively affect more people than if I had never had the accident at all.”
Raising money for research—and more
BRPF’s mission is to support efforts to find a cure for paralysis through funding medical research, while also providing assistance to paralyzed individuals and their families.
“The one thing I knew I wanted to do after my accident was walk again,” Riesch said. “I also knew I didn’t have the background to be a researcher, but I thought I could raise money to help researchers find a cure—and help others in the same situation as me.”
‘Striving to make a difference has given true meaning to my life.’
—Bryon Riesch, part owner of R&R Insurance and founder of the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation
Riesch, who is part owner of R&R Insurance in Waukesha, Wisconsin, has proven to be quite adept at rallying others to the cause. The agency and its employees have been strong supporters of the BRPF—three serve on the board of directors, about 75 have volunteered, and almost all 200 have participated in some way.
‘It’s wonderful to see the impact’
“We love working with Bryon’s foundation because we know our efforts will be directed to where they’re needed most,” said Mike Harrison, the agency’s executive vice president. “Everyone at R&R wants to support Bryon because of what he means to us, but it’s wonderful to see the impact in the broader community as well.”
And with more than $5.5 million raised over the last 20 years, that impact has continued to grow. In addition to funding research, the nonprofit provides grants to individuals for essentials they can’t afford, such as ramps to facilitate home access, vehicle modifications, and even items as simple as shower chairs.
“I remember one man told us how grateful he was for that chair,” Riesch said. “He had not had an actual shower in two years. It’s a small thing that makes a big difference.”
A 2020 Make More Happen Award will make a difference, too. The honor includes a donation of up to $10,000 from Liberty Mutual and Safeco to the Bryon Riesch Paralysis Foundation on behalf of R&R Insurance.
That amount would cover a range of possibilities: It could fund 20% of the average research grant from the foundation, two to three assistance grants, or five scholarships for paralyzed individuals or their children.
“The research we have funded has helped people with a spinal-cord injury move their hands, gain feeling, even resume bowel and bladder function. Seeing the amazement on their faces and the excitement it generates makes all the time, energy, and effort worth it,” Riesch said. “More than anything, what the BRPF does is provide hope.”
That’s exactly what Bryon Riesch has been doing for 20 years, too.