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Eric LeGrand, former Rutgers University football player who is living with a spinal cord injury from a tackle during a game in October of 2010, recently visited out nation's capital and wrote a blog about his experience.
On July 8th and 9th I headed down to Washington, DC to meet and engage with some of the highest elected officials of our country. There were some issues with my van breaking down when we were about to leave, but I was determined to make this visit happen. My goal was to talk about my partnership with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation having recently created Team LeGrand. Its platform is to help individuals living with spinal cord injury and their families by supporting quality of life initiatives and scientific research. I also wanted to discuss my personal dreams; how I believe Christopher Reeve started something and I’m supposed to finish it in spearheading efforts to find cures for spinal cord injury and one day walk again.
I was honored to have met with Ms. Valerie Jarrett (pictured above,) Senior Advisor to President Obama; Ms. Kathy Greenlee, Administrator of the Administration for Community Living and Assistant Secretary for Aging; Congressman James Langevin of Rhode Island; and Congressman Jon Runyan of New Jersey.
In meeting with these officials I ultimately wanted to thank all of them for their support of the Reeve Foundation’s Paralysis Resource Center and NeuroRecovery Network (NRN). I have recovered tremendously from the therapy I receive at the NRN. It was vital to express the need that there is much more work to do for our community so that everyone has access to these impactful therapies.
As I was heading over to the White House, people were recognizing me like I was a celebrity of some kind. I was overhearing, “That’s that guy who got hurt playing football.” I would nod my head and smile to everyone. It was pretty crazy being in the White House, I loved looking at all the historic photos. Before our meeting with Ms. Jarrett, I felt it was too quiet, I needed to make people laugh so I started doing 360s in my wheelchair!
The meeting went really well. I signed one of my books for President Obama. (I was hoping he would call me up to meet him!) As we were leaving, I just had to press my luck, so I slowly started creeping up the White House driveway (above.) Soon the guards yelled “STOP!” They told me if I went any further, security dogs would come out. I was scared so I stopped and turned around. Later that day we met with Christopher Reeve’s daughter, Alexandra, for lunch. She works as a Senior Counsel on the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.
The following day I met with Congressman Runyan (at right) who used to play professional football; after leaving that meeting, I thought, “I could do this.” Hey, maybe one day I will. I also met Congressman Langevin, the only member of Congress living with a spinal cord injury. I really liked him and we seemed to have shared the same feelings.
After all these meetings, I continue to look forward to continuing to advance the care/cures message of Team LeGrand and the Reeve Foundation. I came away knowing that there is more to do but I am confident in my abilities to help the paralysis community. I would really like to thank Michael Manganiello, public policy strategist, and his team, who helped coordinate these visits, Maggie Goldberg of the Reeve Foundation. (Pictured at left.) Michael is the most experienced federal public policy expert on SCI issues in Washington and was instrumental when Christopher and Dana advocated as I am doing now.