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Legendary Locals: RSM Do-Gooder "Revives" Brain-Injured Patients
by: Debbie L. Sklar
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Desmond works with student George Garcia.
Desmond works with student George Garcia.

Desmond is the director/instructor of High Hopes, a nationally recognized program for the brain injured that was founded in 1975. High Hopes is a “one-of-a-kind non-profit charitable organization dedicated to the rehabilitation and retraining of their loved ones who had been devastated by traumatic head injuries.”

The program at High Hopes is unique in a variety of ways.

“Our physical programs include conditioning classes, therapeutic swimming at a local pool, Nautilus weight training at a local gym, and physical therapy, rehabilitation activities for cognitive and social challenges. Students manage a ‘Lunch Express’ business that makes lunch twice weekly for students and staff. Other services include vocational art classes, pre-vocational training, music classes, community activities, independent living classes, occupational therapy and speech therapy,” says the Web site.

High Hopes has been the answer and the hope for hundreds of families faced with the difficult task of getting help for their loved ones whose lives and dreams have been devastated by an unexpected traumatic head injury, Desmond says.

In addition, High Hopes is also connected to Ryan’s Reach, which was founded for Ryan Corbin of Coto de Caza, grandson to singing legend Pat Boone.

Born in 1976, Corbin fell through a skylight located at the top of his three-story apartment building in Brentwood on June 19, 2001. He landed on concrete and was rushed to the UCLA Medical Center in Westwood. He was in extremely critical condition when he arrived with multiple internal injuries, severe internal bleeding, and multiple brain injuries and was not able to breathe on his own. The doctors did not expect him to live, reports the Web site. The Dove Dash is one event that helps support the organization.

Today, Corbin is making great strides in his recovery according to his mom, Lindy Michaelis, who says the family started www.ryansreach.com.

“Ryan's Reach is a supportive organization of High Hopes. I am a board member of Ryan's Reach,” Desmond says. “I am very thankful that Ryan's Reach supports the program of which I have developed over 30 plus years.”

In fact, Desmond is in charge of putting on the “Dove Dash” each year to help raise funds and awareness for brain injuries.

“Dove Dash is a great event located in Dove Canyon that is a run/walk event where by individuals of our community participate and support Ryan's Reach,” Desmond says.

Dove Dash also helps to build awareness of High Hopes and Ryan's Reach.

“Brain injuries are the leading cause of death between the ages of 16 and 35 years of age. In California, each year there are more than 22,400 brain injuries, and 1.5 million in the United States. It has a 50 percent fatality rate and more than 50,000 each year need High Hopes,” Desmond explains. “High Hopes is a one of a kind charitable organization - 501c3 dedicated to helping each brain injured person recover from their injuries.”

While Desmond might have a tough job, he says he wouldn’t trade it for the world. That’s because the best part of course, is seeing someone improve.

“I love to see people improve, for improving is freedom to make the right decisions and be independent from others,” he says. “I love to see people regain abilities thought lost forever due to their accidents. I have seen many miracles and countless lives be regained.”

Desmond, who once dreamed of being a full time Olympic swim coach, now coaches others in swimming -- from beginners to Olympians; something he has been doing for almost 40 years.

What keeps him going: “Believe in what you are doing, never stop learning, treat people well, and never give up.”


Debbie L. Sklar is a 20+year journalism veteran residing in Southern California, where she is a writer, columnist and editor for many local, regional and national publications. Sklar may be reached via e-mail at DebbieSklar@cox.net
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