Teachers are notoriously underpaid, but even this profession has proven to be a dangerous choice for people with spinal cord injuries. Make too much money? Your caregiver coverage gets cut. Case in point is Jenny Weast. She is a quadriplegic from Sacramento, California and has been teaching high school math over 30 years. Last year, after a hard fought 2 year battle, her caregiving services from California Medicaid were cut.
This is a nightmare many quadriplegics fear, which prevents many from working in the first place. The irony is that Jenny only wanted to help others and make a living while doing it. And she doesn’t just taught math at Oakmont High School. She was also the head cheerleading coach for several years, helping bring the team several titles. Needless to say, the student body loves this generous 56 year old.
And their goodwill towards her is helping more than she’s ever dreamed of. Thanks to current and past students, as well as friends, family and coworkers, over $20,000 was raised after their first fundraiser in 2017 to help pay for her caregivers (her caregivers cost around $4,000 every month). And that was just the beginning.
To ensure that Jenny always has the funds to pay for her caregivers in the future, her students have set up an annual fundraiser and a Facebook group called Weaster's Warriors. They are a team of friends who are determined to help Jenny keep her independence which she has worked her entire life to retain. They hold an annual corn-hole tournament and fundraiser every November, and they are able to raise thousands of dollars at this event; enough to fund Jenny's caregivers throughout the year.
Sadly however Jenny’s story is just one of many in this country. This is a crisis we are beginning to see much too often in the spinal cord injury community. Too many people are having to choose between work or caregivers. This needs to stop. We hope that one day the laws in every state changes so that people on Medicaid can work with the security of knowing they will not lose their caregivers. Not everyone has the community support that Jenny has to ensure caregivers will still be paid for.
We admire Jenny’s fighting spirit. She and her group of supporters will work hard annually to raise the money that’s needed for Jenny to continue doing what she was put on this Earth for - to teach. And a spinal cord injury should never take away someone's purpose.