Kessler Foundation Press Releases

Actor Daryl Chill Mitchell Tours Kessler Foundation

2011-03-16 15:29:53 FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Mitchell inspired by the Foundation's work in rehabilitation research and employment opportunities for people with disabilities.

May 26, 2010May 7, 2010; WEST ORANGE, N.J.—Daryl "Chill" Mitchell, actor, producer, director and advocate for people with disabilities, toured Kessler Foundation and Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation on Friday. As a result of his spinal cord injury, which left him paralyzed from the waist down, Chill is interested in the latest rehabilitation research.

"We are glad Chill chose Kessler Foundation to learn more about the ongoing studies, as we're the largest private funder of medical rehabilitation research," said Rodger DeRose, President and Chief Executive Officer of Kessler Foundation. "Kessler Foundation shares Chill's values of increasing opportunities and improving the lives of people with disabilities, through rehabilitation or employment." Those who toured with Chill said that he has an infectious personality that exudes positivity and is a shining example that having a disability doesn't have to stop anyone from having a very successful life.

On Thursday, Chill was the keynote speaker at the NJ Theater Alliance's forum for performing artists with disabilities at the Paper Mill Playhouse, an event partially sponsored by Kessler Foundation Program Center. He spoke to nearly 100 people, both with and without disabilities, about his life, television and film career, working with a disability, and offered some practical and motivational advice.

"It wasn't even about talking about people with disabilities," said Chill. "I told them, 'if you're here for a forum on disabled actors, you're in the wrong place...I only talk about what I can do. I never focus on what I can't do.'"

At the end, he was presented with an award for his outstanding acting achievements and his positive influence in the disability community.

While attending Denzel Washington's new Broadway play, Fences, he spoke with Extra's AJ Calloway, who told him about the unique research and rehabilitation strategies of Kessler Foundation. While Chill knew of the Foundation, he wanted to learn more. Calloway put him in contact with Richard Kessler, grandson of founder Henry H. Kessler and current board member of Kessler Foundation, and the tour was arranged.

During his tour, Chill saw Kessler Foundation's spinal cord injury, human performance and movement analysis and rehabilitation engineering labs. He learned about the latest studies being done to prevent shoulder injuries in people who use wheelchairs. He also saw experimental treatments for muscle and nerve rejuvenation.

To see the applications of this research, he went to the therapy area of Kessler Institute for Rehabilitation. He observed Ed M., a patient with SCI, who was suspended over a treadmill as therapists moved his legs in a running motion. This technique, known as locomotor training, is part of the NeuroRecovery Network program dedicated to retraining the muscles to walk again in people with paralysis. Only seven facilities in the country are part of the NRN. Ed, who had been in a wheelchair for 15 years, can now stand by himself and walk short distances with the use of crutches.

"We need this," said Chill. "The government needs to come here, see the work of Kessler Foundation and the Institute, and apply it on a grander scale. I see a lot of positive energy and employees who genuinely care here. Tools are only tools, but when you get the people behind it, that makes a world of difference."

Chill also interacted with nearly every patient he saw. With a smile and a handshake, he encouraged them to stay positive, keep working to get stronger and forget about complaining; his comedic personality also kept them laughing. Having personal experience with rehabilitation allowed him to relate to patients and share what it takes to succeed.

"I tell people, 'this [a disability] will show you what you're made of.' One thing rehab cannot teach is heart," said Chill. When he visits other people who are newly disabled, he tells them, "This is your life from this point forward. So what are we going to do? Are we going to cry, laugh or party? We have to go from right now. You have to want it."

Chill, now 44, went to South Carolina in 2001 to visit his family. While riding his motorcycle one night, on dark roads he didn't know very well, he turned on road that had gravel and broken pavement. The motorcycle flew from under him. Five days later, he woke up in the hospital no longer able to walk.

He worked hard in rehab, without losing his spirit, to get back to what he loved—acting. While sometimes it can be challenging getting work as a man in a wheelchair, he landed a co-starring role on NBC's Ed. He also produced, directed and starred in Fox's Brothers for which he won the 2010 NAACP for best actor in a comedy series. Chill divides his time between Atlanta and Los Angeles with his wife and three children.

About Kessler Foundation

Kessler Foundation strives to be a leader in rehabilitation research and grant making that benefit people with disabilities. The Foundation's mission is to improve quality of life for people with physical disabilities through discovery, innovation, demonstration, application, and dissemination. Kessler Foundation Research Center conducts research that improves function and quality of life for persons with injuries of the spinal cord and brain, stroke, multiple sclerosis and other chronic neurological and orthopedic conditions. Kessler Foundation also supports programs that promote the employment of people with disabilities through its Program Center's "Transition to Work" Signature and Community Employment Grants. The Foundation's Special Initiative Grants support educational programs like 'ThinkFirst', an injury prevention program aimed at children and teens. Kessler Foundation has a full-time staff of 90 individuals, divided between two locations in West Orange, New Jersey.

For more information, visit KesslerFoundat