Every year in the U.S., an estimated 17,000 people survive a spinal cord injury. While treatment and follow-up care vary according to the severity of the injury, medical expenses can easily exceed $500,000 in the first year alone. These staggering costs inspired the Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation to create the Socrates Award, a grant bestowed annually since 2018 to individuals with paralysis caused by illness or injury. This lifetime cash grant provides spinal cord injury survivors with yearly infusions of economic resources to aid in their ongoing care, from therapy and equipment to prescriptions and in-home care. 

This year, the Socrates Award recognizes three recipients for their efforts to achieve personal success while pursuing the daily grind of physical rehabilitation and recovery. These individuals will each receive a cash grant annually, beginning this year.

  • Cooper Roberts (Highland Park, Illinois): Before the Fourth of July, 8-year-old Cooper Roberts was a typical child—running around, biking and playing with friends. He enjoyed playing sports, including soccer, baseball and football. Cooper’s life took an unexpected and difficult turn when he was shot in the Highland Park mass shooting attack on July 4, 2022. Cooper’s strength and courage in facing his resulting paralysis, and through numerous surgeries towards recovery, has been astonishing and inspirational.
  • Daniel Golden (Chicago, Illinois): Police officer Daniel Golden was shot in the back while reportedly breaking up a fight in July 2022. Golden, a U.S. Army veteran, is now paralyzed from the waist down. He has already demonstrated his inner discipline and mental toughness in his rapid rehabilitation progress.
  • Christopher Medak (Los Angeles, California): Chris, a creative writer and assistant producer, was paralyzed in August 2017 while body-surfing off the coast of Los Angeles. While he was in the ocean, a rogue riptide put Chris in the way of a seven-foot wave, which picked him up and slammed him back down into just one foot of water. The blow shattered his C5 cervical vertebrae, resulting in quadriplegia. Helping others in similar circumstances has been a critical aspect of Chris’ physical recovery. In addition, he overcame drug and alcohol addiction and recently celebrated 35 years of service and commitment to his community.

The Socrates Award honors the Socratic creed’s ideal of mens sana in corpore sano: “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” Christopher Brennan, chairman of the Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation, created the Socrates Award during his tenure in sports media. In 2000, Brennan worked with his late father, Terry Brennan, former head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, to set up this award, which originally recognized collegiate athletes who achieved a combination of athletic and academic success.

Following Brennan’s spinal cord injury that resulted in tetraplegia—partial-to-total loss of all four limbs and torso—the award shifted to its current form.

“After experiencing a spinal cord injury, the Socrates creed took on a profound meaning for me,” says Brennan. “I am honored to award these individuals who recognize that life, like sports, is full of incredible highs and frustrating lows—and that the daily pursuit of ‘a healthy mind’ and ‘a healthy body’ in the face of adversity is a true testament of one’s character.”

In 2021, the Socrates Award recipients each received a $1,000 grant. Each year since 2018, the foundation board has increased this amount, and anticipates that dollar amount will continue to grow in tandem with the organization’s fundraising efforts and events. The award honorees, as well as past awardees, will be recognized at the Annual Board and Advisory Board meeting on March 12, 2023, in Chicago. 

[Source(s): Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation, PR Newswire]