Russell Parker and his family will be in attendance at the Freedom to Walk Foundation’s annual Bling & Jeans Gala. Parker is the foundation’s most recent recipient for a device to help him walk.

The Freedom to Walk Foundation is a local nonprofit organization dedicated to assisting patients and their families by providing financial assistance for the purchase of WalkAide® or Bioness devices for children and adults experiencing foot drop.

Foot drop is a medical condition characterized by weakness or paralysis of the muscles involved in lifting the front part of the foot. It is a gait abnormality that often occurs following a stroke, spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury, or due to multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy.

Foot drop causes a person to either drag their foot and toes or engage in a high-stepping walk called steppage gait. A significant number of individuals experience difficulty with the simplest day-to-day activities because of foot drop.

Most insurance companies are denying coverage for these devices. With an out-of-pocket cost of $5,500 for the Bioness L300 Go and $3,000 for the WalkAide, the costs are prohibitive for many who see these devices as invaluable opportunities to improve their quality of life.

The Freedom to Walk Foundation hosts a yearly fundraiser called the Bling & Jeans Gala to help raise the funds to help families purchase WalkAides or Bioness devices.

“Since 2013, the Freedom to Walk Foundation has celebrated the end of the year with a themed gala,” said the Freedom to Walk Foundation’s founder and president, Daisy Vega. “We are excited to be back with the Bling & Jeans Gala at Center Place Fine Arts & Civic Association in Brandon. Attendees will dress to impress and wear shiny jewelry. Some are creative and add rhinestones to their jeans.”

Since 2013, the galas have been held at the Centre Club in Tampa, and in 2019 at the Tampa Airport Marriott.

“This year, with everyone recovering from the impact of the past two years, Center Place Fine Arts & Civic Association was chosen to have our Bling & Jeans Gala,” Vega said. “Thanks to the businesses and our local community, attendees will enjoy fine dining from Cibo Delizioso, a testimonial speaker, a silent auction and dancing.”

The foundation’s most recent recipient, Russell Parker, along with his family, will be in attendance at the gala this year.

“Russell, our testimonial speaker, will tell his story and how the device has enriched his life,” Vega said. “We hope our gala will also raise awareness about the Freedom to Walk Foundation’s mission to continue to educate, inspire and empower individuals with foot drop on how to overcome financial obstacles through fundraising efforts and to subsidize the cost of the Bioness L300 Go and WalkAide device, which helps them to walk safely.”

If you would like to learn more about the Freedom to Walk Foundation or attend the Bling & Jeans Gala, visit

Sponsorship opportunities are still available for the gala. If you are interested in being a sponsor, contact Vega at

This year’s Bling & Jeans Gala will be held on Saturday, October 8 from 6-11 p.m. at Center Place Fine Arts & Civic Association, located at 619 Vonderburg Dr., Ste. B in Brandon inside the Brandon Regional Library.

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Libby Hopkins has been a part of the Brandon community for more than 30 years. She is a graduate of USF with a degree in journalism. She has been a freelance writer for The Osprey Observer Newspaper since 2008. She also the Executive Director of Center Place Fine Arts and Civic Association. She is a dog mom to her rescue dog, Marshall. She loves being a part of the Brandon Community and she loves sharing positive news about our community.