By Bonnie Hilburn
The Kansas City VA Medical Center Spinal Cord Injury Clinic has been blessed to have Kathy Ricker as our Spinal Cord Injury Coordinator since 2005. She received her Bachelors of Social Work in 1990 from the University of Central Missouri, and her Masters of Social Work in 1991 from the University of Kansas. She was then employed at the Kansas City VA Medical Center first as MSW candidate June 1990 & full time January 1991.
When I came on board with Paralyzed Veterans of America in 1991, Social Worker (SW) Kent Porter had established one of the first VA SCI Clinics in the country. At that time, it was nearly impossible to find out who was eligible for the clinic. He ran a very elite group that he hand-picked. Kent always spoke very highly of Kathy. He told me how she promoted the Practice of Random Kindness and Senseless Acts of Beauty Theory to him in 1993. This was many years before Kevin Spacey’s movie “Pay It Forward” (2005), and before it became popular to do random acts of kindness. After Kent retired, we went through two other SCI Coordinators that really did nothing for our clinic or SCI patients. It wasn’t until 2005, that Kathy took the position that our group actually saw a multitude of improvements for our SCI Clinic and the entire Physical Medicine Department.
Kathy initiated the SCI Registry. She started our first SCI Support Group with the help and support from our former Director Kent Hill. She started a newsletter to keep us all involved with the many community events that were happening around town. She served as Acting Chief PM&R June, 2006-February 2007. She encouraged veteran participation in Adaptive Sports & Recreation programs since 2007. She facilitated contact with the Gateway Chapter PVA main office in St. Louis and helped establish membership forums with Gateway officers.
Kathy opened the doors for all SCI eligible veterans to a variety of medical benefits such as the Bowel and Bladder Program and the Catastrophic Disability Program. She helped us to get special parking and procured a bus with a wheelchair lift for outings. She set up travel to events that many SCI veterans wouldn’t have been able to attend without her help. She even drove the VA bus on several occasions. Kathy has done whatever needed to be done for our Kansas City veterans.
Kathy is married and has three adult daughters; six adult step-children; twelve grandchildren and one great grandson. She will tell you that her greatest achievement was being a single mom to Billie, Ashley (who is disabled) & Lindsay, and now her marriage to Richard in 1994. She is a member of the Praise & Worship team at her church. But, she feels that her biggest mission since she began her career at Kansas City VA was being blessed by all of her encounters with veterans & co-workers.
Kathy Ricker is retiring at the end 2014, and she will be sorely missed by all of us. She is the most dedicated and kind person that I know. Whoever takes her place will have big shoes to fill! If anyone deserves an Atta Girl, it is her. Best wishes on your retirement, on behalf of all the veterans, thank you for your dedication.