Gabriela Camargo | Founding director of Stay in Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center
In the month that celebrates giving and gratitude and honors our country’s great veterans, it seems only fitting that we spend November getting to know the courageous mother and wife behind the veteran-founded and operated local nonprofit Stay in Step.
Gabriela “Gaby” Camargo is the founding director of the Stay in Step Spinal Cord Injury Recovery Center. In 2008, Gaby’s husband Romy was wounded in Afghanistan. Ever since, she’s been an advocate for the military, civilian spouses and family members of people living with a spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury or any neurological disorder that results in paralysis. She and her husband opened the Stay In Step SCI Recovery Center on June 20, 2015. Her determination, love, compassion and commitment to help others overcome the seemingly impossible gives her the strength to continue this difficult mission. Her approach is not just to provide a service at Stay In Step, but also to share her testimony of faith and hope, all the while showing others how to overcome adversity. Gaby’s personal mission in life is to do something bigger than herself.
Tell us more about your role with Stay in Step and which accomplishments you are most proud of.
I am the founding director at Stay In Step. I am very proud to say that we are the first veteran-owned rehabilitation center for brain and spinal cord injury patients in the nation. Since opening the doors more than five years ago, we have been able to establish educational partnerships with six universities and colleges in the area where occupational therapists, occupational therapist assistants, physical therapy assistants and exercise science students come to the center to do their internship programs.
How has the pandemic affected your business this year, and in what ways have you pivoted to be sure you are addressing the needs of the patients you serve?
It affected us very hard because we had to close our center for one month. We continued to pay our staff and we did not generate any revenue for the center. During that time, we were conducting several virtual meetings with the staff and reinventing new strategies in how to reopen the center when it was the time to do it. We started collecting all the necessary PPE to protect our clients and staff to mitigate the risk of the COVID-19. We reopened the center on April 20 taking extra precautions with everything and treating just a few patients per day.
What message would you like to share with other working mothers in our community?
You can achieve whatever you want if you believe in what you do and work with passion and determination. Working mothers can still be successful despite the multiple roles that most of us as women play every day.
How can the people in our local cities support you and serve Stay in Step?
We have people supporting us through donations in different cities and some local people supporting us by volunteering their time through our different events and programs like our Caregiver Program and the Abilities Games, which is something that we have been doing now for three years.
What is your favorite thing to do with your son in the Tampa Bay area?
We like to go to Starbucks every time we have a chance, and we like to ride bikes together.
Who is your biggest inspiration or role model?
My role model is my mother, and my biggest inspiration is my family.
*photo credit: Shana Mitchell Photography