In July 1996, assistant trainer Robin Cleary was paralyzed from the neck down when a colt she was galloping for her husband, Brian Cleary, broke down. Despite cardiac and respiratory arrest, Robin survived, but a severe battle with depression ensued. In 1998, Robin learned of The Miami Project To Cure Paralysis. Located at The University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, the Project is considered the premier research program targeting spinal cord and brain injuries.
With a renewed purpose, Robin refocused and began a crusade to help herself and others. Utilizing her network of contacts in the Thoroughbred racing industry, Robin launched a grass roots campaign to raise funds for the Project. Over the next ten years, her efforts generated over $1 million in donations. In 2000, The Robin Cleary Paralysis Research Fund at The Miami Project was founded in her honor.
Robin remained a courageous and tireless advocate for research up until her passing on Friday, February 14, 2020.
“Over the past 30 plus years, Robin was one of my closest friends. I was on a horse on the track at Calder when she had the accident that paralyzed her. It absolutely devastated me. The strength, courage, and hope she displayed in rebuilding her life to fight to cure paralysis through the Miami Project and singlehandedly raise more money than any individual had ever done was amazing. In addition to that she also continued her passion for training racehorses,
rarely missing a morning at the barn and always there in the afternoon when they raced. Whenever a local rider suffered an injury similar to hers, she reached out to them with support. But most importantly, she was always there for me as a truly loving friend. Robin was the strongest and bravest woman I have known and loved, She is the epitome of a SheHero and will always be my SheHero.
– Dana Wimpheimer
“Robin Clearly started her career with racehorses at age 18. She exercised 2-year-olds at L’Amour Farm for trainer T. J. Kelly. She met her husband, Brian, on the job. They both worked several farm jobs in Kentucky, and Brian got his trainer’s license and they both trained horses with some success. In July 1996, Robin was breezing at horse at Calder Race Course and it broke both front legs, leaving her a quadriplegic. The following year, she met and bonded with a woman named Edna, who was from Colombia, South America. She had the same injuries as Robin, and Robin was a big help to her. Robin then took on the challenge of raising money for the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis. She raised well over $1,000,000 for the Miami Project. She had a good heart regarding all animals and championed animal abuse, particularly the slaugter of horses. Robin loved music and watching Netflix movies. She was such a fighter all these years and has left a huge legacy with The Miami Project, hundreds of friends, and caregivers. She passed away on February 14, 2020, after a lengthy illness. Robin, you surely will be missed. Rest in peace.”
– Janet Mendez
“There is no way to put Robin Cleary’s accomplishment into perspective. Marc Buoniconti, ambassador for The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, once called Robin Cleary ‘someone I look up to as a hero. What Robin has done is simply amazing. I know of no other individual who has led such a grass roots effort to raise money for any charity. She is truly our shining star and an example of how much one determined individual can do to make a huge difference in the lives of so many.’
What makes Cleary’s story so inspiring is that she broke the $1,000,000 mark raising funds in a genuine grassroots fashion. No fancy sales pitch, no video commercials. Cleary went door to door in the world of thoroughbred racing or in her case, barn to barn with a smile and a simple request for donations so that one day there could be a cure for paralysis. In 2000, her efforts became so successful that The Miami Project named a special fund in recognition of her efforts; the Robin Cleary Paralysis Research Fund. Robin Cleary’s name adorns a conference room at The Miami Project’s research facility. In 2008 Cleary’s cumulative fundraising efforts surpassed $1 million. One hundred percent of the money she raises goes directly to spinal cord regeneration research programs, which are some of the most promising areas of research in the field. The Miami Project, located at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, is the most comprehensive research center in the world and Robin’s fundraising has made a big impact in helping to fund the research.
Robin was paralyzed in an accident at Calder Race Course on July 29, 1996 doing what she loved; riding horses. That accident left Robin a quadriplegic, unable to move from the neck down. But that only stopped Robin for a little while. Robin started coming back to Calder a year after her accident. Since her injury, Robin continued to help her husband Brian Cleary train their small stable of horses.
Robin was from Tenafly, New Jersey and then she and her family moved to Florida. Robin met Brian in 1975 while working at L’Amour Farm, a Davie horse training center. After her accident, Robin continued to come to the barn every day, she would go to the races when they had horses in, loved to go out to lunch with her friends, and to go to concerts. Besides fundraising, Robin has inspired and helped so many people in so many ways. If anybody need help or to get in to see a doctor at University of Miami, all you had to do was call Robin. It is beyond amazing what Robin accomplished from her wheelchair and always with a smile. Robin’s husband Brian, sadly passed away in December of 2019, two months before Robin. She was a great person and a great friend, a true SheHero.”
– Dr. Jackie Shellow
“I met Robin in 1974 at Old L’Amour Farm in Davie, Florida. She galloped for T.J. Kelly and I for Rokeby. We’ve been fast friends since. Our paths in the summer took us to different tracks but we always met up in the winter. I was in a catastrophic accident 9 years before Robin. I am a paraplegic so when Robin got hurt I KNEW what she was going to face, and I’d be there for both Robin and Brian. Over the years with her vibrancy, I marveled at how she loved life! I miss her, she was my hero.”
– Katy Rivers
A service for Robin and Brian will be held on March 9, His Place Ministries Address and Directions
A time will be posted once announced.