Dan Jones considers himself fortunate — this despite a car accident in 1999 that resulted in paralysis of both legs.
“I am blessed,” he says. “I still have the use of my upper body, and I have a wonderful family.”
How wonderful? His daughter Lindsay, only 6 at the time, began in 2000 to host a “backyard talent show” to raise money “so Dad can walk again.” This became an annual event, with Lindsay’s siblings, Rachael and Brandon, joining the effort, which evolved into something much larger than the family could have imagined at its inception.
Flash forward to now: The ninth annual “Raise a Glass for the Cure” event will be held on Nov. 9 at the National Museum of American Jewish History on Independence Mall, with proceeds donated to the Buoniconti Fund, the fund-raising arm of the Miami Project, a spinal cord injury research center and a designated Center of Excellence at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.
The connection with Miami reveals another reason why Jones feels blessed. His parents-in-law, Steven and Sally Woolf, learned of the Miami Project during a visit to Florida, and not content simply to share the information with their son-in-law, they banded together with Jones and his wife, Caren, to start the Philadelphia chapter of the Buoniconti Fund.
In 1985, the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis was founded by Dr. Barth A. Green and NFL Hall of Fame linebacker Nick Buoniconti, after Buoniconti’s son, Marc, sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game. The Buoniconti Fund was initiated to raise funds for the research effort, and recent results are encouraging.
For example, the Miami Project’s Christine E. Lynn Clinical Trials Initiative — which takes discoveries found to be successful in laboratory studies and fast tracks them to human studies — recently brought about the FDA-approved Schwann cell transplantation trial.
This trial involves transplanting human Schwann cells to treat patients with recent spinal cord injuries in the hope of restoring mobility. A test on laboratory animals using human Schwann cells, with injections of the drug Rolipram and Cyclic AMP, have shown up to 70 percent return of walking function.
Jones is optimistic about the prospect of this trial. “If the trial works and takes off,” he says, “I would be thrilled to walk again.” Yet his focus is not on himself but on children and young people with spinal cord injuries. “If I can see one of those kids up and walking,” he says, “it will be worth” all his efforts.
They include hosting the “Raise a Glass” event annually. Initially held in addition to the talent show that his children worked on, it has since replaced the show, as his children moved on to other commitments.
The honorees for this year’s event, which also will benefit Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, include Larry and Mickey Magid, the Philadelphia Chapter of the Buoniconti Fund’s “Humanitarians of the Year.” Also being honored is Corp. Russell (Rusty) Carter, injured during his tour of duty in Afghanistan.
Larry Magid — best known for his work in the entertainment industry, including his role as a founder of Philadelphia’s famous rock music venue, the Electric Factory, in 1968, as well as producer of many Broadway plays (notably Billy Crystal’s Tony Award-winning 700 Sundays) — has worked with numerous charitable organizations in the Philadelphia area, among them the Utley Foundation.
Mickey Magid has also a long list of accomplishments. Starting out as a docent, she developed an interest in volunteer management, co-chairing a committee of all the volunteer groups at the Philadelphia Zoo for the last several years.
Together, this husband-and-wife team has actively supported the Buoniconti Fund since the local inception.
Carter’s civilian life consisted of service to others — coaching children in summer camps as well as being involved in the Teen Leaders program. After joining the army, he was deployed to Afghanistan in 2010.
In July 2010, he suffered a concussion when he was hit by friendly fire. After a month, he returned to duty, but in January 2011, he was paralyzed in a truck accident.
The hope is that many like Jones, Buoniconti and Carter will be able to envision walking again. “Two hundred scientists,” said Jones, “are working on a cure.”
For more information about the Buoniconti Fund, visit: www.thebuonicontifund.com .