The American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM) presents the Corbett Ryan Pioneer Award each year to honor individuals who demonstrate excellence in pursuing and achieving quality of life while living with a personal physical challenge.

Winners are chosen based on:

  • Motivation and achievement in accomplishing personal or professional goals
  • Creative approach to education and participation in their vocation or profession
  • Positive approach to life
  • Service as a role model, demonstrating self respect and sensitivity to others

2023 Recipient – Allison Kessler Vear, MD, MSc

Allison Kessler Vear, MD, MSc, is the Section Chief of Renée Crown Center for Spinal Cord Innovation. She is board-certified in Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation (PM&R) and Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) Medicine. Dr. Kessler is the Associate Director of Shirley Ryan AbilityLab’s SCI Medicine Fellowship. She holds appointments at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine as Assistant Professor in the Department of PM&R and Teamwork and Leadership Curricular Thread Leader.

Since joining Shirley Ryan AbilityLab in 2017, Dr. Kessler has managed a full-time inpatient service on the Renée Crown Center for Spinal Cord Innovation while also seeing patients in the outpatient setting. In addition to treating patients with SCI, she supports those with related neurological disorders, including cerebral palsy. In the outpatient clinic, Dr. Kessler oversees spasticity management in patients.
Dr. Kessler has earned infrastructure grants at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab to develop an education curriculum for inpatients with acute SCI, and to study the cardiovascular benefits of swimming for people with SCI. She is especially interested in treatment of young adults and teenagers, and in the topics of sexuality, pregnancy and parenting.

2022 Recipient – Jerron Hermon

Jerron is a Principal dancer and development director for Heidi Latsky Dance Company. Jerron began his studies in the Department of Dramatic Writing at Tisch School of the Arts and holds a B.A with concentrations in Playwriting and Art Criticism from The King’s College in NYC where he wrote several small musicals and a one‐man show. Jerron’s critical writings on the arts can be found on Theasy. He was introduced via Developmental Medicine Child Neurology when he wrote a commentary on the article Dance and rehabilitation in cerebral palsy: a systematic search and review. (López-Ortiz et al.) His detailed critique presented an important bridge to integrate and translate science into the real worlds of individuals with Cerebral Palsy. He’s also contributed to Backstage Magazine. Personal specials include, “ON THE SCENE with John Bathke”, “Open Studio with Jared Bowen” on PBS, and most recently Great Big Story. Jerron has been a panelist for La Mama ETC, and Lincoln Center (Film Society, Education, Performing Arts Library). The New York Times has called him, “the inexhaustible Mr. Hermon…” Jerron has performed at venues including the Lincoln Center and The Whitney Museum of Art. Jerron is a strong advocate for disabled athletes and performers, he has been a featured model for both Tommy Hilfiger and Nike. See more about Jerron’s accomplishments here.

2021 Recipient – Rachel Wobschall

Rachel is the director of principal gifts at Gillette Children’s Hospital and responsible for securing gifts exceeding $5 million. Rachel is a life-long learner. She graduated with her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science ‐ University of St. Thomas in St Paul, MN. She was the first female to win the University of St. Thomas, “Tommy Outstanding Senior” Award. She was interested in law school, but realized fairly early on that she wanted to write the laws rather than interpret them. After taking night classes while she was working, she completed her Masters of International Management Degree also at the University of St. Thomas. For the next 15 years, she achieved her goal of guiding legislation by working for the state government of Minnesota for the next 15 years. She ultimately received her doctor of education degree in Ed.D. ‐ Organization Development and Leadership, University of St. Thomas 2009. She continues to educate herself by pursuing and receiving various certificates of added qualifications including: Certificate‐Higher Education Management “Harvard University Certificate“ Certified Fundraising Executive‐CFRE International Certificate‐AHP Advanced Skills for Major Gift Success.

2020 Recipient – Chris Hendricks
Chris Hendricks is a husband, father, musician, recording artist, advocate, and inspirational speaker. Chris uses his music and voice to inspire others with his messages of advocacy, inclusion, and anti-bullying. He is the founder of the Chris Hendricks Band. The band’s song “Noise” was used for the pre-game song for the NHL team, Carolina Hurricanes. He is also a founder the organization, “Perfectly Afflicted“. Where he travels to schools of all ages across the country to share his own early struggles with acceptance and self-worth as a person with cerebral palsy. As an accomplished musician, Chris uses a blend of storytelling and music to inspire students. Visit Chris’s website to learn more about him.

2020 Corbett Ryan Pathways Pioneer Award winner video

2019 Recipient – Jason Benetti, J.D.
Jason Benetti is a play-by-play announcer for the Chicago White Sox and ESPN. He is also an adjunct professor at Syracuse University for Sports Broadcasting and Sports Interviewing. Jason received his bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Journalism, Economics and Psychology from Syracuse University and has a doctorate of law (J.D.) from Wake Forest University. When he is not in the broadcasting booth, Jason is an ambassador for the Cerebral Palsy Foundation, which works to transform the lives of people who have cerebral palsy through innovation, research, and collaboration. Jason stars in the series “Awkward Moments,” a Cerebral Palsy Foundation video campaign which promotes the understanding of disabilities – helping people to understand and accept those who are different.

2018 Recipient – David W. Pruitt, MD
Dr. Pruitt is the Medical Director, Inpatient Pediatric Rehabilitation Unit Director, Rehabilitation Medicine Fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. He is also an Associate Professor at University of Cincinnati Department of Pediatrics and Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine. Dr. Pruitt was the recipient of the 2011 Pediatric Rehabilitation and Developmental Disabilities Council Outstanding Service Award.

Dr. Pruitt’s Publications:

  • Visscher M, King A, Nie AM, Schaffer P, Taylor T, Pruitt D et al. A quality improvement collaborative project to reduce pressure ulcers in PICUs. Pediatrics. 2013: 131(6): e1950-60.
  • Pruitt DW, Ayyangar R, Craig K, White A, Neufeld JA. Pediatric brain tumor rehabilitation. J Pediatr Rehabil Med. 2011; 4(1): 59-70.
  • Pruitt DW, Tsai T. Common Comorbidities Associated With Cerebral Palsy. In: LJ Michaud (ed.): Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Clinics of North America, 2009; 20(3):453-67

2017 Recipient – Kathleen Friel, PhD.
Dr. Friel is the Director, Clinical Laboratory for Early Brain injury Recovery at Burke Rehabilitation Center and Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Brain and Mind Research Institute, Weill Cornell Medical College.

Research Projects in progress:

2016 Recipient – Justtin Herbst
Justin serves as a role model for people of differing abilities. He testified before the United States Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) on “Fulfilling the Promise: Overcoming Persistent Barriers to Economic Self-Sufficiency for People with Disabilities.” He received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in History from Southern Illinois University and while attending college Justin worked at the Women’s Crisis Center in Carbondale. Today, Justin works in Human Resources at UPS and volunteers at the Center for Independence as a mentor for teens with physical differences.

2015 Recipient – Andrew McAleavey
Andrew received a B.S. Biomedical Engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Andrew is a Registered Patent Agent and founded his own company PATENTBEST. He has worked for over 15 years with Fortune 500 companies, researchers, scientists, engineers along with independent inventors to patent their inventions. In his free time, he is the director of the children’s climbing program at Ironworks Gym, in Berkley, California.

2014 Recipient – Paul Tudisco
Paul is a Technology Specialist. He is owner of Paul’s Computer Service, he regularly instructs and assists students enrolled in classes on assistive technology at United Cerebral Palsy of NYC and consults at NYU Polytech for their disabilities studies courses. Paul assisted in the creation of the “Limitless Stylus”, a product that attaches to the wrist to help people with limited motor skills use touch screen products.

2013 Recipient – Rich Donovan
In 2006, Rich founded Lime Connect, a non-profit organization that works with clients including Google, IBM, and PepsiCo to boost hiring of talented individuals with disabilities. Lime Connect was identified as a best practice company by the US Department of Labor. In 2012, he helped found Fifth Quadrant Analytics (FQA) which provides corporate clients with reports and consulting that helps transform disability compliance into an opportunity to grow and drive profitability. The disability market includes three billion customers worth trillions of dollars. Rich has held positions as CEO of FQA, a member of the
Board of Trustees at United Cerebral Palsy, and an avid sailor. He and his wife Jenn have a son named Maverick.

2012 Recipient – Tobias Tsai, MD
Currently a Pediatric Physiatrist at Levine Children’s Hospital, Dr. Tsai has used his own experiences with cerebral palsy to inspire his career. Specializing in treating children with physical, cognitive and language issues, he has helped patients reach their maximum potential. Dr. Tsai completed his Pediatric Rehabilitation Fellowship at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the Chief Resident of the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Residency Program at the University Of Cincinnati College Of Medicine.

2011 Recipient – Steven Wampler
After a career as an environmental engineer, Steve founded The Wampler Foundation. Also known as Camp Wamp, the foundation provides life-changing opportunities through outdoor recreation programs for children with muscular dystrophy, cerebral palsy, spina bifida and other physical disabilities, at no cost to their families. Steve won the Sports Illustrated “Sweat for Greatness” contest after making history as the first person with cerebral palsy to climb and summit Yosemite’s El Capitan. He is married and has two children.

2010 Recipient – Gary Endacott
Gary Endacott has served as Disability Facilitator for the Ministry of Education of New Zealand. He has worked to ensure the best possible outcomes for children with disabilities. He was the first person with a physical difference to climb Mount Kilimanjaro. Gary’s contributions to inclusion are extensive, especially in the world of sports where he has regularly excelled. He completed the New York City Marathon four times and became a world disabled tennis champ.

2009 Recipient – Judy Panko Reis, MA, MS
Judith Panko Reis, MA, MS, founder of the Women with Disabilities Center (WWDC) of Access Living, sustained a traumatic brain injury by random assault more than 20 years ago. Judith established the WWDC in 1991 at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago when she discovered a lack of accessible women’s health services during her own pregnancy. The WWDC became the first health resource center in the country run by women with disabilities for women and teenage girls with disabilities. Under the direction of a community board of women with disabilities, the WWDC offers weekly support groups, mentorship programs and individual consultations to help problem-solve.