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Riding High

A generous donor with a winning spirit is helping others triumph over paralysis

Dana Hunt Smith has never let becoming paralyzed from the chest down stop her from doing what she loves. A lifelong equine enthusiast, she was paralyzed as the result of a 1988 car accident. She took the saying “get back in the saddle” quite literally, riding in a horse show the very next year, thanks to a saddle and stirrups adapted especially for her. She continued to compete — and win — for many years.

This Kentucky resident’s unstoppable nature shows in everything she does — and she does a lot. Not only has she raised two daughters and achieved continuing success in the horse world, but she is also driving scientific advances to help others suffering from paralysis. The Hunt Family Foundation has generously supported The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis at the Miller School of Medicine.

“The ultimate goal is to find a cure so people can walk again,” Smith said. “But our gifts are focused on new ways to treat chronic neuropathic pain, which affects up to 70% of those with spinal cord injuries.”

Feeling the Pain

Smith knows just how much neuropathic pain can affect your life and add to the challenges of being paralyzed.

“It feels like there’s electricity moving up and down your skin all day long — the pain doesn’t stop,” she said.

In recent years, Smith has faced even more challenges, including a rare form of ovarian cancer and hip pain that forced her to lie flat on her stomach for 23 hours a day. But no matter how difficult things get, she remains dedicated to making a difference for others who are paralyzed.

“I take special pride in supporting The Miami Project because I can see the results,” she said. “I know progress is being made, and that fills me with hope.”