A portion of Bella Maas's August's sales, both online and in-store, will be donated to Bean & the ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre.
This month’s featured Bella is a fighter. Strong in will, passion and grit: Bean Gill has taken the curve balls life has thrown her way and fought back.
In 2012, Bean Gill was newly single, she was working as an X-Ray tech at the Glenrose Hospital, she was a make-up artist on the side and was strong and fit. That’s when her life was turned upside down.
One morning, Bean felt a sharp pain in her back. Minutes later she was paralyzed from the waist down. She later discovered her spinal cord had been attacked by a virus. Diagnosed with Transverse Myelitis, she was told she would never walk again or regain function in her legs.
After suffering through depression, Bean made the decision to fight back. And boy has she ever.
Today Bean Gill is the co-owner of, Reyu Paralysis Recovery Centre, a not-for-profit providing exercise therapy for patients with neurological conditions including spinal cord injury, cerebral palsy, stroke, spina bifida, and acquired brain injuries - to help them regain function. She is the creator of the Models of Diversity fashion show at Western Canada Fashion Week, she is a Rick Hansen Foundation Ambassador, she is a fighter for inclusion and accessibility in our city and this year for the first time, she will compete in the Miss Wheelchair Canada Pageant in Vancouver later this month.
We hope you enjoy our conversation with Bean Gill.
How did ReYu come about?
I ended up in California at a spinal cord injury recovery centre. I fell in love with the program and it was comforting to find trainers who knew how to handle my spastic legs and who were retraining the nervous system. I needed to find that kind of training in Edmonton.
I came home and found an amazing trainer, Nancy Morrow, through the Faculty of Physical Education at the University of Alberta. She was a student enrolled in kinesiology and she has changed my life in more ways than one. Nancy knew she always wanted to work with people with neurologic conditions.
We started working together. I continually increased strength and mobility. I started referring my other wheelchair friends to her and we realized the need for a full neuro-recovery centre here in Edmonton.
In 2016 we got serious. We officially opened our doors in April 2017. The tagline of ReYu is Reconnect. Retrain. Redefine. We are a registered non-profit organization. We provide 1 on 1 personal training that is specifically designed to retrain the nervous system. I am living proof that if you have the right resources, support and you give it all you’ve got, you CAN recover function and mobility.
2) What has ReYu brought to your life personally?
Never once did I think I would be paralyzed. My future was unclear. To be honest I didn't even know if I had a future. The thought of suicide ran through my mind more than I'd like to admit. But on my journey of recovery - my purpose and path became clear.
I always asked the same question "Why me?
But, I believe I was paralyzed so I could start ReYu with Nancy - so together we can make an impact in the community and not only change the lives of Edmontonians/Albertans living with neurologic conditions, but also change the stigma surrounding people with disabilities.
3) What is your goal for ReYu?
Our main goal has been to help as many people as we can, period. Too many times people with disabilities are told what they CAN'T do, we want to empower them and instill confidence in them so they can in-turn become contributing members of society and feel good about themselves.
We have powerful moments here ALL the time and we celebrate each one. I am so grateful and honored to be able to witness such courage and strength and to provide support and hope to those who need it most.
4) What advice do you have for any budding female entrepreneurs?
Listen to your gut. Get rid of the negative people in your life. Surround yourself with like-minded people who will lift you up and keep you up. Find a business partner that balances you. Nancy and I are complete opposites, which is what makes it work. My strengths are her weaknesses and my weaknesses are her strengths. We are a force to be reckoned with. And last but not least, just go for it!
5) You're about to compete in the Miss Wheelchair Canada competition - what made you want to take part?
When I first heard of this pageant I was ecstatic! It's a great platform to not only share my story but to show the world that people with disabilities can be sexy, fun, smart, stylish, confident and have the ability to do whatever they want. Too often we have the limiting beliefs of others forced upon us, I want to change that, I want to spread love and hope wherever I go.
6) You've also started your own fashion show component at WCFW. Why did you want to do that?
We made fashion history in Canada having Models of Diversity on the runway as part of Western Canada Fashion Week. I wanted to show the world that no matter what your ability is, you have the power to be fashionable, confident and charismatic.
6) What is your fashion style?
Ever since I was a little kid I've always had a different style. What most people would consider ugly or wild I would embrace. I'm an 80's child so naturally I love anything neon or sparkly ha-ha.. which is what my wardrobe mostly consists of. I pride myself on being different. I don't like wearing what everyone else is wearing. As the Push Girls say, “If you can't stand up, stand out!" My style is rocker chic, edgy, sporty, comfy, wild, bright, and everything in between.
7) We're also coming up on Spinal Cord Injury awareness month. You strive to be a force for change in the lives of your clients. What do you want people to better understand about the differently-abled community?
First I want everyone to know that we are PEOPLE first. Too often we are thought of as "less than" or "worth less". Most of us are in this position through no fault of our own. We are constantly overlooked and under estimated. We are capable of doing everything an able-bodied person can, we just have to do things differently. People are scared of things that are "different" but there's no need for fear, we want to be treated with respect and dignity. I don't think that's asking for too much.
You've been outspoken about issues of accessibility in our city. What are the accessibility challenges for the differently-abled community?
Edmonton can be a more inclusive and accessible city. We live in a winter city where we are forced to deal with physical barriers already. But it's the attitudinal barriers that make it difficult to live an active, fulfilling life. I recently had a challenging time finding a yoga studio and boxing gym to accept me and allow me to practice in their facility. They couldn’t see my ability. That breaks my heart but NOTHING will break my spirit.
We lead by example: ReYu is accessible and affordable to ALL. We pride ourselves on treating everyone with respect and dignity. We have created a safe, judgement free space for clients to workout, be themselves, and most importantly, celebrate all victories, especially the small ones. We hope our example will impact those living in OUR communities, making YEG an even better city than it already is.
The ReYu Paralysis Recovery Centre is currently fundraising for a new full state-of the-art facility, as they have run out of space for their growing client base. Head to their website for more information on their services or to support their programs.
We want to thank, Bean Gill, for being a driving force for change in our community!