From Coma to Caseworker: Crash Survivor Wins National Award

By SourceAmerica 03/22/2016

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Kerry McGinley


VIENNA, Va. – Almost 13 years ago, Nadine Schaeffer was fighting for her life. A 2003 car accident left her with permanent disabilities and killed her best friend; her survival was uncertain. But after more than a decade of recovery doctors at one point said she'd never make, she's about to take the stage to receive a national award honoring all she's overcome and achieved.

In recognition of her outstanding leadership and exceptional character, SourceAmerica is pleased to recognize Nadine Schaeffer as this year's winner of the President's Award. Each year, SourceAmerica honors men, women, nonprofits, businesses and governmental entities that work to support its mission of creating jobs for people with disabilities.

"I'm just so thankful," she said. "I just do my job and I'm very happy at what I'm doing. I enjoy being able to provide support, advocate for my colleagues – especially a population I hold near and dear to my heart."

Schaeffer's life-changing car wreck left her in a coma. Despite doctors' prognosis that she'd linger in a vegetative state, Schaeffer emerged from the coma to learn how to walk and speak again. Despite her traumatic brain injury and other permanent disabilities, she not only completed her senior year of high school, she eventually earned a master's degree in community counseling and a job at InspiriTec, a Philadephia nonprofit that employs people with disabilities. (Read more about Schaeffer here.)

Her personal journey has made her an invaluable employee as a case manager, said Dean Marino, InspiriTec director of marketing, who nominated Schaeffer for the award.

"She understands what it takes to meet our clients' expectations in an IT help desk environment," Marino said. "But she also understands how to assist when an employee may be having a transportation or medical issue that week, challenges that could impact their ability to perform on the job, if not for Nadine's involvement. She has a grasp of the person side of things as well as the business."

Schaeffer is one of nearly 115,000 people with disabilities employed in 2015 through the SourceAmerica network of more than 1,200 nonprofits.

"All of our award winners this year embody the spirit of our mission: creating meaningful employment opportunities for people with disabilities," said SourceAmerica CEO Steve Soroka. "Each of these men and women is an inspiring example for the rest of us. I applaud their talent, work and conviction."

Schaeffer, of Reinholds, Pennsylvania, will be recognized at the SourceAmerica National Training and Achievement Conference April 25-27 at National Harbor, Maryland.

For more information, visit SourceAmerica's annual awards page.