What started in 2018 with a few individuals taking part in a local fundraiser has turned into a national grassroots initiative that involves and supports hundreds annually. Known as ‘PT in the Community’, this project was formed by University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) Assistant Professor and alum F Scott Feil, PT, DPT, EdD (DPT ’13, EdD ’18) and alum Patrick Berner (DPT ’16) after attending the Combined Sections Meeting (CSM) five years ago.
PT in the Community’s mission is to positively impact local, underserved and disadvantaged communities that are visited for physical therapy conferences. Traditionally, efforts have emphasized school-aged children and the homeless population.
An Idea Is Born in New Orleans
“The idea of PT in the Community came in New Orleans during the 2018 CSM. A few of us decided to leave the conference center and went to a local school fundraiser. We spent time with them and donated to their cause,” says Dr. Feil. “We then realized something that most of us already knew, but thought little about—that thousands of us, upwards of 17,000, descend upon a city for a few days but do little for the folks who live there. Yes, there have been events geared toward donating money to a local cause, but nothing that facilitated face-to-face interactions.”
For the 2019 CSM in Washington, D.C., Dr. Feil says the passion was lit. “A handful of us pitched in and got supplies to distribute to the homeless.” Together, they assembled and delivered 36 care packages containing soap, toilet paper, socks, gloves, protein bars, peanuts, sanitary wipes, fruit and water.
Each year since then, PT in the Community continues to grow and make a significant impact. In 2020, the group raised more than $7,000, secured equipment for 11 Denver public schools and provided educational sessions on health, physical activity and physical therapy. Volunteers served several hundred meals and put together 320 care packages that went to multiple shelters around Denver.
“Even though CSM 2021 was entirely virtual, we kept things going,” says Dr. Feil. “The PT in the Community Challenge was born, and local communities across the country were provided financial assistance.”
A Force for Good
At the 2022 Combined Sections Meeting, PT in the Community focused on helping underserved schools within the San Antonio Independent School District and discriminated populations of San Antonio.
Activities included fundraising efforts and volunteer opportunities. Volunteers visited five local schools during the days of CSM to educate young students on health and wellness, and the profession of physical therapy (PT). Funding supported schools with equipment and supply needs, connecting items to PT.
Volunteers also had opportunities to promote health in mind, body and spirit with individuals facing housing challenges.
“We spent three mornings with participants of Street2Feet, a local organization that facilitates 5k training of individuals experiencing homelessness,” says Dr. Feil. Volunteers educated participants on various strengthening and recovery techniques.
With 75 participants, PT in the Community was able to donate $13,900 in goods and services, including:
- $1,500+ in equipment to support Street2Feet
- Almost 400 care packages to support Thrive Youth Center, Haven for Hope, SAMMinistries and Youth Center of Texas
- $4,000 in equipment to support local schools
- $800 donation to San Antonio Food Bank to provide 5,700+ meals
- Apparel and comforters to warm 50 people
- Thousands of diapers, wipes and items to support a New Life for a New Generation
“The numbers are still early for 2023 in San Diego, but it looks like we’re reaching over $24,000 in donations,” says Dr. Feil.
“I am encouraged by my colleagues and so many others who get involved and show communities across the country all that physical therapy has to offer by advocating for the profession.”