Wings of Life was born in 2003 when two-time motocross champion Heinz Kinigadner’s son, Hannes, had an accident leaving him tetraplegic. Heinz was astonished and frustrated by the lack of research in this space. In response, he founded the not for profit organization Wings of Life in partnership with his friend and founder of Red Bull, Dietrich Mateschitz. They committed to directing 100% of funds raised to world class research.
On June 1st the Greenwich International Film Festival (GIFF) will showcase the movie, Any One of Us, which touches on a similar story. The documentary feature is based on the mountain biker Paul Basagoitia who suffers a devastating spinal injury.
Both the Wings for Life organization and Any One of Us addresses the severity of spinal cord injuries, as well as, the struggles one must endure to strive to regain mobility. GIFF interviewed the Wings for Life’s CEO Andrew Wagner to gain more insight into this progressive not for profit organization.
What is the mission for Wings for Life?
Our goal is simple-to find a cure for spinal cord injury by funding the most promising research.
I think most people are surprised to learn that most spinal cord accidents occur when people are not doing risky things. Thus the title, Any One of Us. The breakdown is eye opening: 50% of spinal cord accidents are traffic related, 25% from people falling, 16% from other accidents (on the job, medical) and only 9% from sports (1% from extreme sports).
There are 250,000 spinal cord accidents every year. 1 accident every 2 minutes.
What makes Wings for Life unique from other not for profit organizations?
There are a few things that make our not for profit unique. First, the organization Red Bull underwrites all the administrative costs. Therefore, we have no overhead costs and 100% of donations go directly to research.
Secondly, the research projects, we currently have over 60, are required to be completely transparent with their findings. In an effort to support a communal effort we host an annual scientific meeting. At this time all funded scientists must disclose their findings. This meeting really facilitates a cohesive effort to share medical breakthroughs which we hope will expedite finding a cure for spinal cord injuries. Additionally, many of our findings are shared on the Wings for Life website, which is available to the public.
How can someone donate to Wings for Life?
Absolutely! We have various donation opportunities. Note, Wings for Life USA. is a 501c3 organization, so all donations are tax deductible.
While we accept donations throughout the year. Our signature, global event, the Wings for Life World Run, is a run on May 5th. Anyone, anywhere can participate by using our App. For details please visit:
Additionally, in the early Fall we will host a series Golf Classics to benefit Wings for Life. These are set to take place in Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles. These fundraisers will also welcome adaptive golfers, those that suffer from spinal cord injuries and use a cart to assist them to stand and play the sport.
To donate, please go to the Wings for Life website directly.
Any One of Us will be presented by the Greenwich International Film Festival on
Saturday, June 1 at 3pm at Cole Auditorium, Greenwich, CT. The centerpiece film will feature a Q&A with director Fernando Villena, subjects Paul Basagoitia and Nichole Munk, and community leader Stephanie Cowie. Tickets for the film will go on sale on May 3rd at www.greenwichfilm.org.