A Growing Partnership Between CSUN, Dodgers and Campanella Foundation Helps PT Students Strive for Their Dreams

  • Campanella Scholarship recipients.

    CSUN physical therapy students who are recipients of the Roy and Roxie Campanalla Scholarship stand with Joni Campanella Roan (Roy and Roxie's daughter), members of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and representatives of the College of Health and Human Development, including Dean Sylvia Alva. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • Students with caps.

    CSUN physical therapy students proudly display caps they received from the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation. Photo by David Hawkins.

  • PT Students with Dodger gear.

    It was a festive environment as physical therapy students opened their gift package from the Dodgers. Photo by David Hawkins.

Tall and lanky, Jared Sinn has the look of an athlete. That’s what he was for many years, as Sinn played a variety of sports growing up in Simi Valley and enjoyed the thrill of competition and sense of camaraderie built by playing on a team.

He also has experienced one of the difficult, and less glamorous, parts of sports: injuries. He has seen teammates get hurt on the field of play. In some instances, those injuries threatened their ability to play that sport again. Watching his teammates recover gave Sinn his life’s calling.

Sinn saw his friends find healing through physical therapy and rehabilitation, and he hoped to do the same for others. He enrolled at California State University, Northridge after being accepted to its acclaimed physical therapy program, hoping to help both athletes and non-athletes improve their physical well-being.

“My classmates, we all have the same values as well,” Sinn said. “We all strive to give the best treatment, the best care, to everyone. It’s my goal to let everyone know that everything’s going to be OK, and there’s something that I can do for them.”

Sinn, who is president of CSUN’s Physical Therapy Class 57, is looking forward to a long career, and he has continued his studies partly thanks to the Roy and Roxie Campanella Scholarship. Funded by the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation, the scholarship is the university’s only one dedicated to physical therapy students.

On Jan. 23, 10 scholarship recipients gathered at a luncheon with Joni Campanella Roan, the daughter of Roy and Roxie Campanella, and members of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and staff from CSUN’s College of Health and Human Development.

The scholarship honors the memory of baseball great Roy Campanella, who was awarded three Most Valuable Player awards during a remarkable 10-year career with the Brooklyn Dodgers, led the team to its only World Series title in Brooklyn in 1955 and was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969. Campanella may have had an even larger role in American history, as he was the second African-American player for the Dodgers when he debuted in 1948, a year after Jackie Robinson broke baseball’s color barrier with Brooklyn.

In early 1958, just months before the Dodgers would play their first game in Los Angeles, Campanella was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed from the neck down. As his daughter recounted at the luncheon, the man who was one of the pillars of the “Boys of Summer” dynasty became wheelchair bound, his spirit crushed because he could no longer play the game he loved.

He started physical therapy, which helped Campanella gain enough mobility to become a guest instructor at the Dodgers’ Spring Training facility. In an area called “Campy’s Corner,” he offered lectures to young catchers in the organization. Campanella was also involved in the Dodgers’ community relations efforts.

The Hall of Famer passed away in 1993, and a year later, Roxie began to donate scholarship money to physical therapy programs, continuing to do so until her death in 2004. In 2005, the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation and the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation joined forces to dedicate scholarships to physical therapy students at CSUN. The Campanellas’ daughter, Joni, relished the opportunity to meet the students.

“Knowing how we’ve come together in terms of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and the Roy and Roxie Campanella Foundation, helping these students get out there and help people have independent lives — and that through them, my father’s and mother’s dream and their legacy are continuing on means a lot,” Joni said. “They can help people to succeed, like the physical therapists helped my father to regain his feeling that he could be independent and self reliant. That meant a lot to him, and these students will be giving the same opportunity to a lot of other people in the community.”

“This is a unique partnership for us, being able to team up with Joni Campanella, and the rich history that Roy had with the Dodgers, to directly impact 10 scholars who we know need the funds to continue and to graduate from this program,” said Executive Director of the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation Nichol Whiteman. “It’s very rewarding for us, and it’s a testament to the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and how we believe our investments are best suited.”

The partnership has grown to add more scholarships, and since 2010, the Dodgers have invited a CSUN physical therapy student to intern with the team’s medical staff, including the Dodgers’ Medical Director Stan Conte, M.S. ’78 (Physical Therapy), through the team’s nearly two-month Spring Training. It is quite rare to have a physical therapy intern work with a professional sports team, but it also shows the strength of CSUN’s program.

“CSUN has enjoyed a long and strong partnership between the Los Angeles Dodgers Foundation and the Campanella family that has been instrumental in supporting our students as they finish the graduate program — and now the doctoral program in physical therapy,” said Sylvia Alva, dean of the College of Health and Human Development. “This is really in the spirit of the Campanella Award [awarded yearly to the Dodgers’ most inspirational player]. Physical therapists can truly transform and enrich the lives of the people they serve. It’s nice to see that legacy and the need to give forward initiated early in our students through these scholarships.”

As the scholars expressed their gratitude during the luncheon, many gave a brief description of their circumstances. Some are the first members of their families to enter higher education. Some have come to CSUN after growing up in different countries. Some are even living away from loved ones as they pursue their dreams.

Sinn spoke for so many others as he explained the inspiration he drew from Roy Campanella’s story.

“I want to be the guy to make a difference in everyone’s life,” Sinn said. “If I can do that just by going to work, to me that’s not work. It’s something I want to do every day, to go out and save the world, I guess.”

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