Alfredo Iglesias had just graduated from Florida International University in computer engineering and was recently married when his life changed forever after an accident on his honeymoon in 2008.
“It was the second day into my honeymoon and I went to go swim. Just walking into the water, I kind of dove forward to get wet a little quicker and the bottom shallowed out, and I dove into a sandbank and I broke my neck and immediately I was paralyzed,” Iglesias said.
Iglesias was left with limited mobility from his neck down and is now in a wheelchair unable to walk. He says it was physically and mentally tough to accept at first, but he shifted his focus on what he could do and started iAM ABLE.
“I found the need here in South Florida, and I decided to open up iAM ABLE and create our project and make lemonade out of my lemons and just help individuals who are struggling through this transition,” said Iglesias.
By using the experience of what he went through, Iglesias created iAM ABLE as a one-stop shop to close the gap between traditional therapy and specialized therapy for those with spinal injuries and paralysis.
“iAM ABLE is a facility and project that somebody can come to after sustaining a neurological injury, whether it’s paralysis from a traumatic brain injury or a spinal cord injury and they can come to find specialized activity-based therapy, they can find mentorship and our resource center,” said Iglesias.
Not only does Iglesias support those who have become injured or disabled, but as a first-generation Cuban American, he hopes his program can help Hispanics in the community as well.
“I am a proud Hispanic. Opening up this business was an achievement for me knowing that my parents came from a struggle from another country with nothing, and now I’m able to give back to a country that they were able to come to and find refuge in,” said Iglesias.
iAM ABLE has now been operating in their Southwest Miami Dade location for eight years. Iglesias had no business experience at first, so he turned to Ricardo Casas, a free volunteer mentor with SCORE Miami Dade to help him grow his business and answer questions along the way.
“SCORE can serve that purpose to provide that outsider view and advice and experience that they may not have. It’s very helpful to have someone that can help them through that process if they need lending or try to get a loan,” said SCORE mentor, Ricardo Casas.
SCORE Miami Dade also works to help small businesses get funding and resources, like the Comcast RISE initiative to provide grants to Hispanic and Black-Owned businesses. The application period for the Comcast RISE grant begins on Oct. 1.
With the support of his mentor and the community, Iglesias continues to be laser-focused on his mission.
“We find that we’re able to get folks independent again and that is what our mission is. To try and help individuals become independent again after sustaining an injury like mine,” said Iglesias.
Disclosure: Comcast is the owner of NBCUniversal, the parent company of NBC 6.