Meet our leadership team and the people dedicated to our mission.
RYAN SHAZIER, Founder
Any professional football player, let alone a linebacker, must learn resilience to succeed in the game. For Ryan Shazier, the ability to bounce back and thrive comes naturally.
Despite unexpected challenges throughout his life, Ryan has met his goals, silenced his doubters and served as an inspiration to fans across the world. Now, he is turning that motivation toward increasing funding, resources and support for spinal cord injury (SCI) patients.
Ryan knew from age five that he wanted to make it to the NFL, but it wasn’t long before he faced his first significant obstacle. He was diagnosed with alopecia, an autoimmune disease that causes partial or total hair loss. Through the taunts and bullying, he didn’t let the disease get him down or shy away from his dream. He embraced it as part of who he was and let his play define him, not outsiders.
After high school, he left his sunny home state of Florida for the rough weather up north, joining college football powerhouse Ohio State, where he immediately made an impact, starting as a freshman at linebacker. In three years with the Buckeyes, Ryan recorded 315 tackles, 208 solo tackles and 14.5 sacks.
That success made him a perfect fit for the Steelers, who selected him in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft. He didn’t disappoint, becoming a star playmaker known for his speed, smarts and instinctual nose for the ball. He made the Pro Bowl in two of his first three seasons. Over 46 games, including 41 starts, he recorded 299 tackles and had seven interceptions.
Then it all changed. During a Monday night game in Cincinnati on Dec. 4, 2017, Ryan suffered a spinal contusion, or a crushing of the spinal cord. The nerve signals in his spine were disrupted, paralyzing his lower body and necessitating emergency spinal stabilization surgery. Doctors said he had a 20 percent chance of walking again, but for Ryan, this was just another obstacle to overcome.
After 130 spinal rehabilitation sessions, Ryan not only gained back strength to walk, but he was able to dance with his wife at their wedding just two years after the devastating injury. Moving on to the next chapter of his life, Ryan is now making it his personal goal to help SCI patients get the treatment they deserve and meet their own goals through the Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation.
With Ryan on their side, these patients have a supporter who understands their struggles and a teammate who won’t let them down.
CAROLINE BOYCE, Executive Director
Caroline Boyce moved to Pittsburgh from London, England at the age of six and has considered herself a Pittsburgh native ever since. She brings 30 years of experience in leading nonprofit organizations in executive roles and as a change consultant.
Her most recent work includes service as Interim Executive Director with diverse organizations including the Arch Street Meeting House Preservation Trust, Cliveden of the National Trust, the Maternity Care Coalition, and the PA Coalition Against Domestic Violence. She also served as transitional executive director at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.
With a BA from Connecticut College and an MA from Cornell University, Caroline specializes in assisting nonprofits that are starting up or going through significant transitions. She is a Certified Board Source Nonprofit Governance Consultant, a graduate of the Support Center’s Interim Executive Director program, and a graduate of Leadership Pittsburgh.
Caroline’s outside interests include cooking, architecture and Pittsburgh sports teams. A long-time Steelers fan, Caroline is delighted to join Ryan Shazier’s team to advocate for the victims of Spinal Cord Injuries and advance the agenda of this new and dynamic organization.