Theresa Gramlich: My Inner Warrior

Theresa is a busy mother of three children. She joined the Health and Wellness Center at Paraquad last spring. She had recently fallen out of her wheelchair, and she wanted to learn how to get back into it independently.

When Theresa joined the Health and Wellness Center, she worked with staff to build strength in her arms and core. It was common to see her on the training mat on the floor, working toward transferring to her wheelchair. One day, two other members came over, got down onto the mat, and showed her how they got back into their wheelchairs. According to Theresa, the gym “helped me realize that, regardless of how big or small the task at hand is, approach it with the same effort and focus, each and every time. And it’s OK to ask for help.”

A year later, Theresa is still dedicated to her health and fitness. She is often seen working out with the battle ropes and arm bikes. Recently, she took another major step toward independence: she passed her driving test and is preparing to buy an accessible vehicle to accommodate her busy young family. As Theresa puts it, “You don’t always get what you wish for, but you always get what you work for. Like my tattoo on my leg says, ‘Life rolls on.'”

Bloom Café Graduates: Opening Doors

Portraits of Paraquad

As we approach the one-year anniversary of Bloom Café on March 21, we are celebrating the accomplishments of 15 young men and women who have completed the culinary training program. Students learn core skills such as sanitation, food safety, knife skills, cooking and baking.

The second class graduated in January, and we look forward to another vibrant class of students beginning in March. Graduates have gone on to intern at local restaurants and caterers like Nothing Bundt Cakes, Butler’s Pantry, Crispy Edge, Great American Corporate Dining and the Missouri Athletic Club.

Internships give students the opportunity to hone their job skills and build work experience before they enter the workforce. After that, Paraquad helps each intern find competitive employment in the community.

For decades, the unemployment rate for people with disabilities has been virtually unchanged. In fact, it’s about twice that of people without disabilities.

People with disabilities want to work—they just need the opportunity. That’s where Bloom Café comes in. Through this program, Paraquad is expanding employment opportunities for people with disabilities and opening doors to financial independence.

Terry Brannin: Community Coming Together

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Terry has always been good with his hands. In the 1980s and 90s, Terry traveled the world with the U.S. Air Force and National Guard working as an aircraft engine mechanic. He loves to reminisce about his time spent in Iceland, Turkey and Germany, making F15 planes “loud and fast.” Terry has enough medals and awards to fill a room. These days, he still puts his knack for fixing things to good use, working as a repair technician for Dell.

After his amputation earlier this year, Terry had difficulty getting in and out of his house. When his deep freezer motor caught fire and burned the exterior of his house, he reached out to Paraquad for help. Teaming up with The Home Depot and our other corporate partners, Paraquad built a ramp to Terry’s door and replaced the siding damaged in the fire.

In Terry’s words, the renovations are “awesome.” Now, he has a safe home to live in. He also recently received a prosthetic leg, increasing his mobility. Once he has been trained to use the prosthetic, he plans to start exercising in Paraquad’s Health and Wellness Center to build his strength and independence.

Learn more about the programs helping Terry live more independently

Ramp up for Accessibility Day

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Paraquad partners with The Home Depot and other local corporations on Ramp Up for Accessibility Day, an annual one-day, volunteer-driven effort to build ramps and make other modifications to the homes of people with disabilities. This project helps to increase safety and access for St. Louis residents. In 2018, more than 300 volunteers worked together to transform the homes of 20 people with disabilities in the St. Louis area.

Health and Wellness Center

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The Health and Wellness Center is the only fully accessible gym in the St. Louis metropolitan area and serves the unique fitness needs of people with disabilities. In January 2017, Paraquad opened a new facility to house the growing program, which has expanded to serve nearly 300 people each year.

Located at 5200 Berthold Ave., the Health and Wellness Center is a unique venue with an expert staff of physical and occupational therapists where people with disabilities can exercise, receive assistance continuing their post-rehabilitation training and participate in recreational activities.

The Health and Wellness Center helps participants develop an exercise program that best meets their needs and goals. Monthly fees for the Center are determined on a sliding scale. Financial aid may also be available to participants who qualify. Participants typically start with a 12-week introductory program, during which they will also receive a health handbook and nutrition program guidelines.

Adaptive Equipment
In addition to the equipment found in most gyms, such as treadmills and free weights, the Health and Wellness Center has adaptive equipment specially designed for people with mobility impairments. Adaptive equipment includes:

  • MOTOmeds
  • Equalizer weight machines
  • SCIFIT steppers and bikes
  • Standing frames
  • Krankcycles

The Center also includes a mobility skills course for people to practice navigating mobility challenges (e.g., wheelchair ramps or curb cuts) with their assistive technology device.

Portraits of Paraquad

Other Amenities
The Program in Occupational Therapy at Washington University provides clinical services and conducts research through a partnership with the Health and Wellness Center. Clinical services include assistance evaluating seating and mobility needs, and a program that explores the unique challenges of parenting with a disability.
Gym members also have access to the Logan University Chiropractic Clinic, which is located within the gym. Logan University students provide free chiropractic care to participants while learning how to serve people with disabilities.

SilverSneakers is the nation’s leading fitness program designed for older adults. For more than two decades, SilverSneakers has offered a convenient, innovative and popular fitness program for millions of people who see the tremendous benefits of physical fitness. Paraquad is a certified provider for SilverSneakers, which is provided at no cost by more than 60 health plans nationwide.

Make a Difference Every Month as an Advocate

In 2020, Paraquad will celebrate 50 years of advocacy and services for people with disabilities. By joining Paraquad’s new monthly giving circle, the Advocate Giving Society, you can help empower people with disabilities all year long as we count down to our Golden Anniversary.

Why Monthly Giving?

  • Increase your impact.
  • Spread out your giving.
  • Support services for people like Terry all year long.
  • Membership perks, including recognition as an Advocate, exclusive updates and VIP access at special events.

How to Join

You can donate now through our secure online form, or if you would rather give another way, including direct deposit, or if you have any questions, please contact Melissa Brickey, Advancement Director, at or 314-289-4348.

Join the Change Makers Society to Increase Your Impact

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
—Margaret Mead

The Change Makers Society advances the mission of Paraquad through philanthropic support and community advocacy.

Annual membership is granted to individuals who make contributions of $1,000 or more. Lifetime membership is granted to individuals who give a total of $25,000 or more, including planned and estate gifts.

In addition to their philanthropic support, Change Makers can also become actively involved in promoting positive change for people with disabilities in other ways. As Paraquad’s ambassadors to the community, Change Makers can leverage their resources and networks to advocate for a more equitable and inclusive future.

Paraquad honors Change Makers through priority access to Paraquad events, communications, and initiatives. In addition to the satisfaction of helping people with disabilities, Change Makers receive:

  • Invitations to exclusive Change Makers Society events.
  • Invitations to Paraquad events and activities such as the Shine the Light Awards, press conferences, legislative signings and other special occasions.
  • Bi-annual Change Makers Society newsletters.
  • Listing in Paraquad’s annual report.

You can donate now through our secure online form. For more information, contact Melissa Brickey ( or 314-289-4348).

The goal of the Change Makers Society is to support and advance Paraquad’s mission of full accessibility, inclusion and independence for people with disabilities in our community.

About Portraits of Paraquad: Each month in 2019, Portraits of Paraquad highlights one of Paraquad’s services. Collect all 12 postcards to create a hidden design! If you are not currently receiving the postcards, you can sign up here.