Helping Those in Need Find Independence

Kathleen Lazor Woodcock and her husbandAs part of our social impact series highlighting our advertisers’ contributions to the community, we share the work of the Marin Center for Independent Living (MCIL), founded by disability activists in the 1970s. The goal of the center is to assist persons with all types of disabilities to achieve their maximum level of sustainable independence as contributing, responsible and equal participants in society.

MCIL does this important work through assisting with planning benefits, modifying homes and adding assistive technology, getting personal assistance, counseling, advocacy and any other issues that those who have found themselves disabled or impaired might need help with.

Kathleen Woodcock is the Director of Community Resources at MCIL, and has been working with the organization for 12 years. This year marks MCIL's 40th anniversary.

Kathleen shares her story here:

Photo: Kathleen Lazor Woodcock and her husband


"In 1992, my family was in Hawaii for a family reunion. On the last day of our two-week vacation, my parents, my husband and my three brothers mountain biked down Haleakala. When we got to the bottom, my mother said, 'thank God everyone is okay; I had a horrible premonition that something terrible was going to happen.'

With that, we all went to the beach for one last swim before we needed to pack up to go home. My three brothers were in the ocean but suddenly, we couldn’t find my youngest brother Joey. My older brother spotted Joe floating face down in the water. Joe, a 25-year-old chiropractic student and a big, muscly guy was walking out of the ocean in knee deep water when he was hit by a shorebreak which tossed him on head, he broke his neck and went unconscious. The water swept Joe out; he was paralyzed, and drowning. My brother Jim spotted him. My brother, John, a head and neck surgeon, got Joe to the shore and stabilized him.

In the blink of an eye, Joe was a quadriplegic. Our only glimmer of hope was a very, very, tiny flicker in his big toe. We spent many extra weeks in Hawaii until we could get Joe an air ambulance home to UCSF. He underwent spinal cord surgery and was then transferred to Davies for long process of rehabilitation: now his, and our, new normal.

When it was time to bring Joey home, we had no idea how to do this or where to turn for help – we had resources but no knowledge. The Marin Center for Independent Living reached out to my family to help us navigate how to convert a home to make it accessible for a quadriplegic and a wheelchair. All the little things you never think about – a roll-in shower, a roll-under sink, wider doorways, a hospital bed… the list goes on and on. These are things you never dreamed you would have to face. We are eternally grateful to Marin Center for Independent Living for guiding us through this very difficult process.

Upon my brother’s accident, I retired from mortgage banking to help my parents with Joe. In between raising my three children and helping with Joe, I did a lot volunteer work and served on several local nonprofits. Fast forward to 2008, MCIL reached out to me to do some development consulting for them (they did not know my story of how MCIL served my family). I said yes, and It felt like my world had come full circle back to the Marin Center for Independent Living.

In my work with MCIL, I am most passionate about serving older adults and people with all types of disabilities, which is our mission at Marin Center for Independent Living. At MCIL, we touch so many hearts on a daily basis. I feel deeply honored and privileged to give help and hope to those in need. It has been 12 years now that I have had the privilege to work with MCIL and touch so many lives daily – just as MCIL touched my family back in 1992."