Meet Our Peer Mentors

“Hope, given with a personal connection, can make a big difference.” -Mike Ferriter, Chapter Co-Founder

We are more than 15 individuals (peer mentors) who give our time to meet you when you are newly injured, transitioning into the community or currently living in the community. We are all living with a spinal cord injury or have a family member affected by this life-altering injury. We work to match you with a peer of similar injury level, age and/or ethnicity. We also meet with your families and loved ones as they, too, are affected. We offer emotional support, guidance and hope throughout your rehabilitation process and transition back into the community. We understand what you are going through. We can talk about how to work through the emotions, changes in your relationships and transitioning back into your community. We are also knowledgeable about home modifications, community services, adaptive sports, fund raising, hiring and managing PCA’s, and adaptive driving. We are available to demonstrate activities like wheelchair skills and transfers, or to just talk about life.

We can start to visit with you while you are in rehabilitation. If you are at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital,  where we have a satellite office, you will see us around the SCI unit and in the gym. We may even stop by to visit you in your room or invite you to our weekly support group. We can also visit if you are in another area hospital.

Once you are discharged, we will stay in touch during the transition back into the community. You may see us canoeing in Boston Harbor, playing basketball, motorcycle riding,  golfing , skiing,  studying at school or traveling to work. We are available at any time to talk, meet for coffee, play golf or basketball, or visit you at home or another facility. We offer tips about life’s basics: cooking, hygiene, shopping, doing laundry, getting in and out of a car/van and more. It is our goal to be positive role models as you rebuild your life and follow your dreams.

Our peer mentors have been through a training process and are certified as Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital volunteers. We are fortunate that one of our two offices is located on the Spinal Cord Injury floor at SRH. Our office is staffed 5 days a week. Feel free to stop by, call 617-952-5643 or email us

Chris Barrow
T6, Paraplegia
In 2008, during my senior year of high school, I was involved in a car accident during the month of February. My injuries resulted in a T-6, complete, break of the spinal cord. Being an athlete and feeling the discouragement of not knowing I would still be able to partake in some of my favorite activities, I found a new interest in education and growth of knowledge. Since then I have graduated high school (2009), received my Bachelors in Management and Marketing, University of Massachusetts Boston (2015), while also working an internship for the Career Services Department at the University. I am currently a full time employee at a project development company (CV Properties) and have been volunteering for the GBC for almost two years, (2014). In my free time I take pleasure in going to the gym, reading, cooking, fishing, playing basketball, enjoying the nightlife around Boston, and traveling. Since I was lucky enough to have strong positive support for myself during my injury, it is very rewarding to remind others that anything is possible as long as you have a positive mindset and are willing to put in the effort!
Brian Beek
C6-7 A Quadriplegic
I reside in Pepperell, MA with my wife, son, and daughter. I’ve been an electrician for over 25 years and have worked in many facets in the industry. In 2008, I sustained a C6/C7 SCI while riding an ATV in northern New Hampshire. About a year after my injury, I decided to pick up where I left off professionally, and successfully tested for my Master's license. I now continue to run my own business. In my spare time, I take part in the many SCI studies that Spaulding has to offer and began peer mentoring in early 2013. I also exercise on a regular basis and enjoy the independence of driving myself around.

Larry Brennan
C5-6 B Quadriplegic
I suffered a C 5-6 spinal cord injury from a diving accident in the Bahamas in 1991 while a freshman in college. I returned to college and graduated from UMass Boston. Now, 22 years later, I live on my own in a wheelchair accessible unit in Boston. I have a service dog, Apple. I work full-time at Massachusetts General Hospital. I participate in a variety of adaptive sports, including sailing. I also enjoy photography and drive a wheelchair accessible mini-van.
Since my injury, I have been an active member of the GBC, serving in a variety of capacities including my current position as the President of the Board of Directors. Apple and I often visit patients on the weekends.
Pam Daly
T6 B Paraplegic
I broke my back at T6 in a car accident when I was a senior in high school. I went on to college where I earned a BA in History and, the year following my graduation, began my 33 year career in text book publishing. I loved my job and the people I worked with. They were smart and interested in all things new. My being in a wheelchair was only another interesting way to view the world; for them and for me. Through them, I learned that my journey was not mine alone and that is was healthy to be able to lean on others and have them lean on me. I began working for the GBC three years ago and have learned a lot from the newly injured patients and their families and I hope they've learned from me. I'd like people to know that we at the GBC are always there to reach out to.
Midge Dawicki
C5 A Quadriplegic
Due to an accident in 2005, I became a quadriplegic. Since that time I have faced many challenges but have maintained a positive attitude. I volunteer in different hospitals by speaking with patients and letting them know that there is life after injury. I really enjoy speaking with patients because I understand the challenges they face on a day-to-day basis and hope that I can make a difference for them. I believe that even though it seems like I’m giving to them, they are actually giving much more to me. I am on the Board of Directors of the Greater Boston Spinal Cord Injury, NSCIA, Secretary of the Disability Commission in Saugus, on the Board of the Affordable Housing Commission in Saugus, President of the Independent Living Center of the North Shore and Cape Ann, and on the Board of Directors of the Listening Place (a counseling center) located in Lynn. I am also proud to be a mother of four and a grandmother of 10 grandchildren.
Diane DeRoche
Family Member, C4 B, Quadriplegia
In 2012, my son, Ryan DeRoche, fell suffering C4 spinal cord injury. Unfortunately, what happened to Ryan happens to others, everywhere, every day. We learned quickly that these accidents are definitely a family affair. For the first year, we spent our time working our way through a maze of information about spinal cord injuries. We did not always know who to go to, or which way to turn. Many times we were able to sort out our concerns with other family members on the floor, and with the experienced staff at Spaulding. But we still felt as though we were traveling down a path where no one else had traveled. Looking back, many of our answers came from talking with people who had “been through it”. By connecting and sharing, we were able to be heard, understood and come to our own solutions. Since Ryan’s injury, I feel as though we have conquered the huge obstacle of not knowing; we have made it to the other side of “what to do next”. Knowing this, I want to be available for families, as a mentor and advocate, to help them find their own answers, and most importantly be a listening ear. Mentoring for the GBC is giving me the opportunity to reach out and be there for other families.
Ryan DeRoche
C4 D Quadriplegic
In March 2011, I was injured while riding my bicycle home from work. It was a sunny, Sunday afternoon in Gerona, Spain. Suddenly, I was launched over the handlebars and fell directly on my neck. I was rushed to Barcelona for surgery and stayed for 3 1/2 weeks. When the doctors gave me the okay to fly, I was med-flighted from Barcelona to Boston for a five-month stay at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. With an incomplete level D injury, I was able to re-gain a considerable amount of sensation and function. When I left, I decided to live alone with the assistance of PCA’s. In the last two years, I have begun to walk with crutches and a walker, and am working to make this a practical part of my life. For now, I use a power chair to be as independent as I can and live a very full life. I recently started working again. I also participated in Open Style Lab at MIT; a program created to find clothing solutions for people with disabilities. I look forward to seeing you around the halls and the gym at Spaulding in Charlestown.
Jerry Donovan
T6 A Paraplegic
I had a truck accident in downtown Boston and became a T-6 paraplegic in 1999. I enjoy doing all kinds of exercise especially swimming. I am also very involved with golf and getting all those with a spinal cord injury out on the course. I have been working for the GBC for a couple of years and try to lead by example - showing that anything is possible! I visit patients at SRH and at Braintree Rehab in Braintree, MA.

Dave Estrada
T4 Paraplegic
I have been involved with the GBC ever since an Early Intervention staff member came into my hospital room in 1995. I had become paralyzed after being struck by a car while riding my motorcycle. Returning to my senior year at Northeastern University in a wheelchair, a peer mentor helped me get my life back on track. I earned a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Criminal Justice and returned to work six months after my accident. I went on to earn a J.D. from the Northeastern University School of Law. While in law school, I interned for the Massachusetts Office on Disability. An athlete prior to SCI, I began wheelchair racing. From 1997-2000, I completed eleven marathons in the wheelchair division. I have been a certified peer mentor since 1997 and became the GBC’s Executive Director in October of 2005. I have logged hundreds of hours with newly injured patients and almost as many advocating for their rights.
Doug Frey
C4 D, quadriplegia
I was injured in 2012 from an aggressive epidural abscess. My spinal cord was significantly compressed due to the infection resulting in partial paralysis. It was not certain if I'd walk again without assistance. After a year of rehab, I was able to walk without assistance. I continue to stretch and work out daily to improve strength and balance. I have been a peer/mentor since early 2015 and have enjoyed meeting with patients and their families to help them prepare for the future.
Christine Galatis
C7 C Quadriplegic
Hello my name is Christine…after completing my Master’s Degree in Education and teaching for a few years, I became injured in 2010 after spinal cord surgery. I love keeping in shape with nutrition and exercise. I exercise at least three days a week and have participated in many exercise programs. I also spend time outdoors with my family and friends and enjoy visiting places with them. I am friendly and would be a great resource to anyone with any questions.
Kevin Gibson
C5-6 A Quadriplegic
In the summer of 1990, before my senior year at UMASS Lowell, I suffered a spinal cord injury to my neck. I was diving at the beach and struck my head on the surface of the water leaving me a quadriplegic. Afterwards, I continued my education and received a Bachelor of Science Degree in Criminal Justice with a minor in Psychology. For the past 15 years, I have worked for the GBC-NSCIA at their main office located at New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Woburn. I use a manual wheelchair and drive myself around in my modified van. I like to visit spinal cord injury patients who are at New England Rehabilitation Hospital in Woburn.
Jonathan Hobbs
C2-3 A Quadriplegic, Vent
I am a vent dependent quadriplegic who has been living with spinal cord injury since 1998 as a result of a diving accident at the age of 25. The injury was particularly devastating for me because it left me unable to perform the two activities I was most passionate about, surfing and skateboarding. Fortunately, the accident led me in a direction I never saw my life going, towards education and a new passion for learning. I am currently enrolled at Fitchburg State University, and will graduate in May 2014 with a Bachelor’s Degree in History. I have been involved with the peer visitor program for 10 years. Through this time I have been active with the visitation of vent dependent quadriplegics. I live in the Worcester area and have in depth knowledge of the resources that are available to those with a spinal cord injury.
Chris Johnson
T12 A Paraplegic
Born and raised in the city of Boston, I sustained a gunshot wound in October of 2006. Formally an automotive technician and service manager, I shifted my attention to public service by volunteering at local Boston hospitals and schools. Currently, I am an Emergency Medical Dispatcher for the city of Boston. I have a strong passion for giving back to my community. I thrive on helping those who've sustained a SCI so they can reach their maximum potential. I enjoy playing wheelchair sports, swimming, fishing, and traveling.
Kristen McCosh
C5-6 A Quadriplegic
I was injured in a diving accident while in high school, so I’ve had a C5-6 spinal cord injury for over 30 years. After I finished rehab I went back to high school, then went on to college and graduate school. Currently, I work full-time in Boston City Hall as the Disability Commissioner and ADA Title II Coordinator for the city. I am married and live in South Boston. As for mobility, I use a power chair and drive a modified Toyota minivan. I have a really good care routine and great PCAs! Some of my favorite things to do are travelling, going to the beach, working out at the gym, and playing online Scrabble.
Joe Murphy
In 2012, I had a spinal fusion( lumbar and thoracic ) to correct a severe case of scoliosis. Unfortunately mistakes were made and I became paralyzed. I am married( 37 years ) with three sons and two grandchildren. I was 43 and Vice President of Sales for a large commercial insurance firm when scoliosis and ruptured discs left me disabled. But the silver lining was the opportunity to return to my first love, painting. After college I had trained at the "Atelier School of Classical Realism". Today my work can be found in numerous public and private collections including the Whitehouse, and can be seen on my website at While I was in rehab, the peer mentors were my salvation. The support group peers helped me navigate the seemingly insurmountable obstacles with their knowledge and experience. I became a peer mentor to try and give back in kind.
Bob Nichol
T12 A Paraplegic
I was injured in a motor vehicle accident at the age of 25. I returned to work at a full time job and competed on the circuit in wheelchair races. After several years, I decided to take a chance and start a durable medical equipment business with a childhood friend. Through years of hard work, I have experienced success in business and raised a daughter who recently graduated from college. I no longer race wheelchairs on the circuit, but I ride a hand cycle for cardio, enjoy weight training, water skiing, boating and jet skiing. If I could, I’d become a "professional sports fan." For many years, I have volunteered as a peer mentor and enjoy giving back to the spinal cord injury community. I am available to visit the homes of those with a spinal cord injury.
Mark Perry
T10 A Paraplegic
In 1974, I was involved in a motor vehicle accident while riding a motorcycle. I became a complete T-10 paraplegic. After my accident, I finished high school and graduated from college. I was employed by various engineering firms for 25 years as a CAD Designer and 10 years as a Technology Manager for an architectural firm. I will be celebrating 20 years of marriage in 2014. I have participated in many sports as well as being a certified SCUBA diver. I enjoy doing landscaping projects around my home and riding my Can Am Spyder motorcycle. I volunteer at the local library, am on the student advisory committee at my former high school and have been volunteering for the GBC since 2011. I am available to visit the homes of those with a spinal cord injury.
Chris Ray
T12 D Paraplegic
In May of 2007, I was working in the boom truck cutting trees. The boom collapsed sending me 40’ to the ground below. My body was broken but not my spirit and desire to move on. Through the help of the GBC and many other people who I have met on this amazing journey, I have learned that there is nothing I cannot do. I am back to work cutting trees, living at home with my two sons and busy as their Boy Scout leader. I enjoy working with others to reach their goals. I volunteer as a peer mentor for the GBC and help to run an SCI support group in the southeastern MA area, held at SRH, Sandwich.
Beth Weaver
Family Member C4-5 A, Quadriplegic
The day after my birthday, December 2007, my brother-in-law fell and became a C4-5 quadriplegic. He was married to my sister, and best friend. His daughters were 18 and 22 at the time. Our two families are like one family. From the first hour, we traveled the road together; arriving at the emergency room, navigating the health care and insurance systems, processing all the paper work, buying durable medical equipment, planning fund raisers and meal deliveries, hiring, scheduling and managing PCA’s but most importantly, caring for and supporting their family both emotionally and physically. I “had their back” each and every day. I like to talk with family members and loved ones. Often the focus is on the newly injured. I understand that this is a family accident with injuries to more than the patient. A spinal cord injury alters the life of many loved ones. I have been there. I started volunteering for the GBC in late 2011 as I wanted to ease the journey for others. I am now the Executive Director.
Caitlin Weiler
Family Member C5-6 Quadriplegic
Years before I was born, my father was in a traumatic swimming accident near Plum Island, MA. He was pulled underwater by a strong undertow causing him to hit his head on the ocean floor. The impact broke his upper spine, rendering him a quadriplegic. My mother, a strong woman in many aspects, pulled him from the water with the help of my Grandfather, and stayed by his side from that day forward. At the age of five, I began my journey as a caregiver for my father. I learned to be nonjudgmental and the importance of compassion and patience. This instilled many skills and life lessons others my age had never encountered. When I was 14, my father was diagnosed with cancer, which quickly took his life. In his honor, I vow to never stop my efforts in supporting the spinal cord injury community. It is my passion, and mission, to advocate while sharing my story as a supportive and positive role model.
Heather Wood
Guillain Barre Syndrome
In August 2014, only one week after giving birth to my son, I was diagnosed with a severe variant of Guillain Barre Syndrome. It left me completely paralyzed, on a ventilator and in an induced coma for a month. I spent nine months in the hospital, eight of which were at Spaulding in Charlestown and in Cambridge. I've made so much progress since my initial diagnosis but still have a ways to go.. My biggest fear when I was first diagnosed was that I wouldn't be able to be the mother I always dreamed of being. I've met other parents in wheelchairs and learned tips and tricks from them. Family has been a huge support for me too! I now live independently and care for my son. I work as the Chapter Coordinator for the Greater Boston Chapter of United Spinal. I am re-learning to drive and look forward to having even more independence!