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CSUCI Awards Founders of Health Charity

California State University – Channel Islands announced Andrew and Kirsten Skinner, founders of Santa Clarita-based nonprofit Triumph Foundation, are this year’s recipients of its Distinguished Alumni award. The Skinners completed CSUCI’s business program and earned their degrees in 2004 as members of the school’s second graduating class. “It’s really humbling,” Andrew Skinner said of the award. “We have a special place in our hearts for CSUCI. It gave us the business skills to launch our own organization. Running a nonprofit is similar to running any business, we just file our paperwork to the IRS a bit differently.” Triumph Foundation provides support to people with spinal injuries or mobility impairments. Andrew Skinner described its operations as “meeting unmet health needs” and offering a “continuum of care that goes beyond a month in the hospital.” Chiefly, the foundation awards grants to people whose insurance doesn’t cover necessities like hand control installation in their vehicles, a customized wheelchair or a ramp in their home. “For some people, a stair can be like a mountain,” he said. Triumph doesn’t receive public funding from the government, and instead raises money from private family foundations and corporate sponsors that include Northridge Hospital, Atkinson Foundation, Eberhard Construction and Reeves Automotive. As the executive director, Andrew Skinner delivers care packages to newly injured people, coordinates funding and works directly with the foundation’s 80 ambassadors in hospitals throughout Southern California. “My heart is still in rolling into someone’s hospital room and offering them hope and encouragement and resources,” he said. Kirsten Skinner oversees Triumph’s financial side, running payroll and helping organize grants. The foundation has a staff of six. The Skinners founded Triumph in 2008, a few years after Andrew suffered a life-changing spinal cord injury in a snowboarding accident that left him unable to walk. “I found out that a lot of rehabilitation takes place when you go home. That’s when reality sets in and you start having questions. After I spent a number of years focusing on myself, I wanted to pay it forward and help other people who found themselves in similar situations,” he said. Andrew Skinner spoke of a gentleman named Anthony — a paraplegic since the 1990s — who mentored him while he was in rehabilitation. He said getting married and getting back to work made him feel like he was ready to do for others what Anthony had done for him. And so, Triumph was born. CSUCI has been wholly supportive since the accident, Andrew Skinner said, and regularly contributes foodstuffs and other goodies for the foundation’s care packages. He added that leadership at the school have personally made donations to Triumph. “It’s always been our goal to do programming together,” he said. “We do a lot with Cal State Northridge.”

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