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Q & A with America Inspired Finalist Sabrina Cohen

When I nominated Sabrina Cohen for's America Inspired, I found it easy to write about her many accomplishments, like how she educated herself about stem cell research, lobbied in support of it on Capitol Hill and at the UN, and has raised more than $75,000 for medical research -- so far! This would be remarkable for anyone, but it is particularly amazing when you consider that Sabrina does it from a wheelchair.

Hemley Gonzalez presents Sabrina Cohen with a proclamation from Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower.
Charlotte Libov

Sabrina, though, doesn't view her wheelchair as a symbol of confinement. She calls it her "vehicle of change." It is Sabrina's nature to take something anyone else would view as tragic and transform it into something positive. This is the magic of Sabrina Cohen. She inspires people who have never even met her. As a psychologist friend who doesn't know Sabrina but learned of her through this contest told me, "I had a patient who needed inspiration, so I showed him the video of Sabrina. It worked." (Click here to watch that video.)

Sabrina is thrilled that America Inspired has given her the opportunity to bring her cause to worldwide attention, so she was delighted to tell you more in her own words.

What is the greatest challenge you have faced and how did you deal with it?

The greatest obstacle in my life was breaking my neck, which left me paralyzed and took away much of my independence. I dealt with it by being thankful to be alive and because I was surrounded by so much love and support, I developed a strong belief in myself that eventually proved to me that I could adapt to anything.

America Inspired is a contest that honors people who are making a difference in their communities. Tell us how you make a difference and what inspires you.

I think I make a difference by being a voice that people can relate to on many levels, from coping with a life-changing experience to coping with health issues. I mentor people who have suffered spinal cord injuries. My goal is to talk them through it, give them the resources they need to go on in life, and also provide them with the guidance they need to pursue their dreams.

I've also spoken to thousands of South Florida kids, urging them to think about the decisions they make in life. When I was 14, I was injured in a car crash. I had lied to my parents about where I was going. So I share my story with kids. I tell them not only how to be safe in a car, but also never to lie to their parents. We talk about character and peer pressure issues.

The other impact I've made is in the fundraising that I've done. I'm been able to give back to science, and help the medical researchers who work on finding cures. They've told me that it inspires them to meet the people they are helping.

As for what inspires me, well, I love life, and I love people. I love seeing people create what they want in their lives.

All of the finalists in the America Inspired contest have a chance at winning a $50,000 Grand Prize. If you were to win the money, what would you do with it?

This is what a lot of people have been asking me! This money would mean everything to a small organization like mine. I would give it all to my foundation, in order to find cures for such devastating conditions such as paralysis, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and stroke.

What advice do you typically give to others?

I always tell people to be positive and optimistic, and to keep lots of love and hope in their lives.

Who has been the most inspirational person to you?

When I first started my foundation, I drew a lot of inspiration from Nancy Brinker, Susan G. Komen's sister. Nancy started the Susan G. Komen for the Cure with just a few friends and a few hundred dollars. With nothing but a dream and a promise, they built a worldwide phenomenon. My dream is to sponsor a walk in support of stem cell research, with people from groups representing the 20 or more diseases it could help, like heart disease, blindness, diabetes, and all the others, walking beside me.

How can other people get involved or give to your cause?

First and foremost, I want people to learn about stem cell research. They can do this by going to my website, or joining my Facebook page, and if they want to hold events and fundraisers in their area, I'm happy to help. And, of course, I'm always delighted to receive donations at my nonprofit organization, the Sabrina Cohen Foundation for Stem Cell Research.

Sabrina is a unique person who works hard, but also believes that, by making her cause fun, she'll get more followers. To see Sabrina at work, click here. To see the video that Sabrina produced of the "Click to Vote" party that we sponsored on Jan. 21, see the video embedded in this article. That day was also proclaimed "Sabrina Cohen Day" by the City of Miami Beach.

To vote for Sabrina, click here, sign up, and cast your ballot!


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