Entrepreneur rises to the challenge

The year is 1984. Spring break at Daytona Beach. Kevin Sullivan, a 24-year-old student at the University of North Dakota, studying to become a commercial pilot, dives into a 15-foot wave about to crash into him. He hits the ocean floor and breaks his neck. His resulting injuries would make him a quadriplegic, confined to a wheelchair, for the rest of his life.

Sullivan spent three months in the hospital, and another year at Courage Center. The last month he was at Courage Center, Sullivan was asked to give a tour of the center to Reeve Lindbergh, Charles Lindbergh’s daughter, who was visiting the Twin Cities to dedicate the old airport terminal to her father. Sullivan had no idea that the tour he would give her would result in a $10,580 grant from her, the price of her father’s plane, the Spirit of Saint Louis, in 1917.

Sullivan became the first recipient of the Jonathan Lindbergh Brown Grant, created by Reeve Lindbergh in honor of her son who had died of encephalitis at a year and a half old in 1985. The purpose of the grant, which focuses on adaptive technology, is to address imbalances between human beings and their environment. Lindbergh was impressed by Sullivan’s motivation to get back into the workplace despite his challenges. The grant enabled Sullivan to purchase a van adapted to his needs as a quadriplegic and to continue his education and career. The van, said Sullivan, helped him become mobile and move into the workplace. In 1987, Sullivan was working for a flight school, and by 1990 he was running his own school.

In 1991 Sullivan founded In-Home Personal Care as a result of economic factors and his own frustration in finding reliable, well-trained personal care attendants (PCA). He has had an enormous amount of success and satisfaction with the business matching people with disabilities to caring, well-trained, reliable PCA. Through his business, he has watched many people with disabilities reach new levels of independence, and he has had the satisfaction of providing jobs to people working as PCA.

Sullivan credits Courage Center with having the most dramatic influence on his path to entrepreneurship. Courage Center trained Sullivan on how to interview, hire, and train aides. “I was my own first client,” he said. The business started out of his own home, but grew through a combination of his own savings and word-of-mouth, eventually moving to an office in Saint Louis Park and ultimately relocating to Golden Valley, where it is today, currently handling about 100 clients.

Sullivan’s personal experience with PCA agencies gives In-Home Personal Care a distinct advantage over other agencies, because Sullivan has lived through what many of his clients have experienced: unable to find dependable, professional care when he needed it most. “We vow our clients will never be left high and dry,” says Sullivan. All 250 of his company’s PCA are on-call, 24 hours a day. The company also has three nurses who, in Sullivan’s words, “… are the eyes and ears between our clients and our employees.” The nurses furnish monthly reports to Sullivan on how his PCA are doing with his clients.

In-Home Personal Care services the Twin Cities area and as far out as Duluth and Rochester. The company’s PCAs have a wide range of experience. Anyone wanting to become a PCA can, as long as they have no criminal background. “We attract quality aids because I know what type of aide I would want: someone who’s going to show up and address my needs,” said Sullivan.

Sullivan has been married for four years. He describes his wife, Kathy, as an integral part of his success, both personally and professionally. He said getting married was a huge challenge in itself because of a state law that would have disqualified him from receiving Medical Assistance due to their combined assets. Thankfully, the law changed four years ago to reflect only applicants’ assets, which, in the long run helped him in his business, as well, since many of his clients are on Medical Assistance, as well. He still flies planes and dreams of being the first quadriplegic to fly across the ocean. He is also thinking about creating another flight school that would specialize in helping people with disabilities learn how to fly. Right now, planes can be adapted temporarily to accommodate people with disabilities, but Sullivan’s dream is to own a plane that will be permanently wheelchair accessible.

Reeve Lindbergh saw the potential for what Kevin Sullivan is now doing for other people when she awarded him the grant in 1985. Her father said it himself in a 1973 speech, “All the achievements of mankind have value only to the extent that they preserve and improve the quality of life.”

For more information on In-Home Personal care, call (763) 560-3450;

or visit them on the web at: http://www.inhomepersonalcare.com