Mayra and Ralph Fornos were average young newlyweds with the world as their oyster. Their dreams and ambitions were boundless. Four months after they were married, while Ralph was surfing in Manhattan Beach, CA, he suffered a C5-6 spinal cord injury. In the blink of an eye, Ralph became a quadriplegic. Ralph underwent rehabilitation for six months as he and Mayra learned all they could, not only about each other, but also about the new life dominated by Ralph’s spinal cord injury. Undeterred by his injury and facing enormous obstacles, Ralph was determined to conquer his injury and make the world a better place. Ralph went on to graduate from the University of Southern California, earning his bachelor’s degree in political science. Next, he enrolled in law school urging Mayra to join him. After they obtained their law degrees, the law offices of Fornos & Associates was born. Fornos & Associates had two goals: advocate for those who had sustained severe life altering injuries and stand up for those who had suffered discrimination because of their disability.
For many years, Ralph was heavily involved with the Culver City Disability Advisory Committee and several other advocacy groups championing the rights of the disabled. Thanks to the wisdom he gained and his spiritual strength, Ralph peer counseling many newly spinal cord injured individuals. He encouraged them to believe in themselves, to move forward with their lives, to reach for the stars and to fulfill their dreams–no matter what they may be. Always there to lend an ear or a helping hand, Ralph lived a full, productive and happy life. His life was a model for not only the disabled, but for all people. In 2002, Ralph passed away from complications unrelated to the spinal cord injury. Mayra has continued the law practice, now known as Fornos Law Firm, sticking to the goals that her and Ralph set.
In honor of Ralph, Mayra founded Ralph’s Riders Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, which enables individuals with spinal cord injuries and paralysis to achieve their highest level of independence, health and personal fulfillment. Ralph’s Riders Foundation brings people living with a spinal cord injury together with those living with similar injuries who have overcome seemingly insurmountable odds and are living life at its fullest. One of the many unique aspects of Ralph’s Riders Foundation is how it joins forces with other nonprofit organizations, maximizing the use of resources in finding a central was to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities.