Local man takes story to capital

VALPARAISO: Group to call for more funding of spinal cord injury research

BY JOYCE RUSSELL
joycer@nwitimes.com
219.762.4334

This story ran on nwitimes.com on Tuesday, April 5, 2005 12:34 AM CDT



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VALPARAISO | Two years ago Joe White never thought he'd become an activist.

He figured he'd be working construction and taking care of his family.

That was before White, 30, was paralyzed from the chest down after being thrown from a mechanical bull ride at the Porter County Fair on July 25, 2003.

White said he and about 150 other victims of spinal cord injury will march on Washington, D.C., next week to bring awareness to those who suffer from spinal cord injuries. He will be taking part in the Spring Into Action rally sponsored by the CureParalysisNow organization. On April 12, he'll participate in the rally on the west side of the U.S. Capitol building.

"Right now there are 96 registered wheelchair users participating. That will be quite a sight," he said. He'll join the rally with Dana Reeve, chairwoman of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation, Dr. Wise Young, a neuroscientist and director of the Keck Center at Rutgers University, U.S. Rep. Jim Langevin, D-R.I., co-sponsor of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Act, and others. He said participants hope to raise awareness for the need to increase funding to find a cure for spinal cord injuries.

Caring for people with spinal cord injuries currently costs $14.9 billion a year, White said. If people who can't use their hands could, he said that would save $9 billion in the cost of care.

"It is mainly about raising awareness and helping bring a voice to what has largely been a silent afflicted part of the community," said White, who also started a spinal cord injury support group in conjunction with the Porter hospital system.

White said he's been amazed at the lack of information and support for people with spinal cord injuries. He said he was told Indiana doesn't keep track of numbers because "it is not a reportable condition."

In addition to participating in the rally, he'll be meeting with U.S. Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Evan Bayh, D-Ind., and with U.S. Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind. White said he wants to emphasize to them the financial costs of caring for victims and how they can be offset by a greater investment in research.

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