Atlanta, GA,
10:25 AM

Adventures with Andee’s Army

Andee’s Army’s decade-long support of adolescent patients, programs, and research at Shepherd Center is worth celebrating.

Project Rollway, Fun Fridays, Prom, Homecoming Week, and the Haunted House — events like these are created with Shepherd Center’s youngest patients in mind. They’re designed to allow adolescent patients to participate in milestone events they may miss while in rehabilitation, build self-esteem, and boost confidence in navigating the world beyond Shepherd’s walls. And Andee’s Army’s support of Shepherd Center, a partnership that celebrates 10 years in February, helps make events like these possible.

“Andee’s Army’s support of the adolescent program has been transformative. Their partnership has allowed more opportunities for our adolescent patients, who have gone through the unimaginable, to see their future after injury,” says Paula Ackerman, MS, OTR/L Shepherd’s SCI post-acute program manager.

Andee’s Army began after Andee Poulos, then 14 years old, had an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) — a tangle of blood vessels — rupture in her brain. Andee came to Shepherd Center for rehabilitation and made an incredible recovery. A committed group of supporters who helped her founded Andee’s Army to ensure that other adolescents who sustain brain or spinal cord injuries and their families have the support they need. Andee’s Army partners with Shepherd Center, offering personalized grants to patients, funding research, and backing programs to improve mental health and quality of life to help adolescents with brain and spinal cord injuries achieve the highest level of independence possible.

“We step in when insurance steps out,” explains Nina Cheney, executive director of Andee’s Army. “We support everything from durable goods or home modifications to driving education and Beyond Therapy®. As we’ve grown, we’ve realized that there are other ways we can support patients in getting back to living as fully as possible — that is what Shepherd is so great at, and that's why we sponsor things like prom and the Halloween Haunted House.”

Andee’s Army has also supported several research projects, including, most recently, Keeping Adolescents and Young Adults Connected (KAYAC). KAYAC aims to connect newly injured inpatient young adults and adolescents with spinal cord or brain injury to a peer mentor who is a year or more beyond their injury.

“It has been game-changing to have Andee’s Army’s support — it makes a world of difference,” says Katie Harris Rains, Psy.D., rehabilitation neuropsychologist and co-principal investigator for KAYAC.

Cheney says supporting adolescents’ mental health is central to Andee’s Army’s mission. 

“It is so dramatic when you are around these kids, to see the change in their outlook after they begin therapy. It goes back to that ‘I can't to I can.’ Yes, your life will be different, but you have a lot to contribute, and at Shepherd, they’ll find the best way for you to move forward. We have such a long, lovely relationship with Shepherd, and it’s very mission-driven for us. Shepherd is the manifestation of what we do,” Cheney says.

As for Andee, she just graduated from college with honors and has started working.

“It is incredible that all of this started with one little girl who is just an amazing person,” Cheney reflects.


Written by Ruth Underwood


About Shepherd Center

Shepherd Center provides world-class clinical care, research, and family support for people experiencing the most complex conditions, including spinal cord and brain injuries, multi-trauma, traumatic amputations, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and pain. An elite center recognized as both Spinal Cord Injury and Traumatic Brain Injury Model Systems, Shepherd Center is ranked by U.S. News as one of the nation’s top hospitals for rehabilitation. Shepherd Center treats thousands of patients annually with unmatched expertise and unwavering compassion to help them begin again.