Annual benefit concert draws awareness to spinal cord injuries

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A diverse crowd gathered at Peacock Park in Coconut Grove on Sept. 27  to celebrate the annual Woodystock benefit concert. Artists offered canvases and brushes for visitors to paint with, vendors sold refreshments to combat the afternoon sun, and musicians played tunes ranging from classical violin to reggae to indie soul.

Woodystock, which boasts both local and international musicians, raises money for people with spinal cord injuries by raffling items ranging from handmade jewelry to Caribbean resort tickets. It also receives donations from sponsors such as City National Bank and the real estate company, CFH Group.

University of Miami alumna Milena Mihovilovic, was there volunteering as part of the event at the Rise Up Gallery Tent.

“It combines my interests for both neuroscience and art, so it was a perfect fit,” said Milena, who graduated in May 2014.

The charity concert was born of a tragedy. On Jan. 29, 2011, Florida Atlantic University rugby player James “Woody” Beckham received a tackle that dislocated his spinal cord and paralyzed him from the chest downwards. He spent 10 days in an Intensive Care Unit in Jackson Memorial Hospital and 60 days in the Jackson Rehabilitation Hospital.

When Beckham returned home, he and his family decided to launch The Woody Foundation, a non-profit organization that hosts events such as Woodystock to aid people with spinal cord injuries. The foundation uses the money it raises to pay for wheelchair yoga classes at Dharma Yoga every Monday and for “Woodypacks,” their signature bags that contain assisted devices for people in wheelchairs.

“It’s incredible to make an impact in the disabled community,” said Beckham, a native of Coconut Grove who plans to graduate from Florida International University in 2015.

The Woody Foundation also collaborates with Rise Up Gallery (RUG), a non-profit organization that funds art therapy workshops in hospitals. David McCauley, the founder of RUG, learned about art therapy classes while in a rehabilitation hospital, after he broke his neck in a driving accident.

“The art therapy really helped in my recovery, both physically and mentally,” McCauley said.

However, he soon discovered that many rehabilitation hospitals did not offer art therapy classes, so he quit his job in Wall Street to launch RUG in 2010. To raise funds, he and other disabled artists showcase and sell their works.

Originally from New Jersey, McCauley moved to Miami because of the art scene in Wynwood. He appreciates the spinal cord injury research done by local hospitals and accepts volunteers from local universities.

Mihovilovic, has been volunteering at RUG for the past two years and hoped the event would raise awreness of the “healing powers of art,” and would encourage people to donate toward art therapy classes in Miami Jackson Hospital.


For more information on The Woody Foundation, visit

For more information on Rise Up Gallery, visit