Recreation Administration alumna Cherly Lady Vines will be honored with the CHHS Outstanding Alumnus award at the annual Top Dog Alumni Awards. The award honors alumni who have made significant contributions to society, and whose accomplishments, affiliations and careers have honored Fresno State. The Top Dog Alumni Awards will be televised on ABC 30 at 7 p.m. (PDT) on Sunday, April 30, and will be streamed for those outside the Fresno area.

This story is reposted from the Fresno State Alumni Association. 

CVines2-smCheryl Lady Vines was born in Lindsay, California, and grew up in northern California, where she graduated from high school in Fair Oaks. During her high school years, she began her lifelong mission of helping individuals with disabilities achieve their goals through her Girl Scouting experiences. Vines headed to Fresno State with a plan to become a physical therapist. Eventually, her goals veered a bit and she would graduate in 1976 with a bachelor’s degree in recreation administration (with an emphasis in therapeutic recreation). She was the first woman in her family to receive a college degree. 

Vines went on to work at Fresno Community Hospital in the rehabilitation unit, beginning her long career of working with people with spinal cord disabilities. She held several positions as a clinical recreation therapist before traveling across the country to complete a master’s degree in leisure education at Florida State University. 

After graduate school, Vines expanded her efforts beyond clinical practice and worked in advocacy for people with disabilities, through legislative work and within the community. A strong proponent of recreation opportunities and leisure education for people with spinal cord disabilities, Vines has been involved in the wheelchair sports movement on the local, national, and international levels for most of her career. She became involved in adaptive sports at Fresno State and has served in leadership roles as a volunteer for the National Wheelchair Basketball Association for over 40 years. In fact, it was at a wheelchair basketball tournament that she met her husband, Harry Vines. They moved to Little Rock, AR where she served as the executive director of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Commission, another advocacy and community service program.

While in Arkansas, Vines served on the Arkansas State Independent Living Council and was a cofounder of the Arkansas Spinal Cord Injury Association and the Spina Bifida Association of Arkansas. These efforts led to her advocacy efforts in the passing of federal legislation including the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and in Arkansas the first seat belt laws and establishment of the Arkansas Trauma system. In addition to serving as an advocate for those with spinal cord disabilities, Vines is also a researcher, with numerous publications and presentations in the field of spinal cord injury care. 

Currently, Vines is the director of Research and Education at Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) in Washington, DC.  In that role she oversees PVA’s research initiatives, including a near $100 million grant portfolio. She is also responsible for PVA educational initiatives including the development and dissemination of the Clinical Practice Guidelines and Consumer Guides on Spinal Cord Injury, the annual Healthcare Summit and Expo and the PVA Education Foundation. She is proud to lead PVA’s Women Veterans Empowerment initiatives.  

Vines says she feels lucky to live in California’s central coast, where she vacationed with her family as a child.  She enjoys golf, boccia, beach walking and wine tasting and is honored and amazed to be a Fresno State Top Dog!