Paralyzed ex-high school athlete receives $25K

December 23, 2011 3:37:27 PM PST
A young man paralyzed while playing high school football in the south suburbs 11 years ago got a much-needed gift Friday. The Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame donated $25,000 to Rocky Clark and his family.

The Clarks are facing mounting medical bills without the help of insurance and their home is in foreclosure.

In the tidy bungalow Rocky Clark shares with his mother, the rooms quickly filled with well-wishers, including former Chicago Bear Emery Moorehead, on Friday.

"Twenty five thousand dollars is going to help some of the causes for you," Moorehead told Clark.

Moorehead sits on the board of the Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame, which decided its $25,000 annual charitable gift had to go to Rocky, a standout high school football player who broke his neck on a play in 2000 at the age of 16. His comprehensive health insurance expired last summer.

"I see a young man of faith, I see a young man who is filled with courage who is fighting a tough, tough battle," said Charlie Carey of Chicagoland Sports Hall of Fame.

Rocky returned from the hospital Thursday after being treated for pneumonia. His mother Annette is his sole caregiver now - nurses cost $600 a day -- and Rocky hopes the gift can be used to give her a break.

"We are in it together. We are in it to the end. So if there is a will there is a way, you know God makes a way out of something. I'm always thinking, to come up with a plan to do something," Rocky said.

For Reverend John Smyth, head of Notre Dame Catholic High School in Niles and the usual recipient of the hall of fame's Christmas charity, Rocky's attitude offers lessons to us all.

"A young man who is disabled..He is almost content in what he has, which I think is hard to understand but he is a man of faith," said Rev. Smyth. "His smile radiates the room."

Rocky's smile also strengthens the faith of a mother who quit her job to care for her boy.

"His condition, it weakens me. But he always says encouraging words. I just wish I could trade places with him," said Annette Clark.

Upon leaving the hospital, Rocky's mom had to shell out over $4,200 for a pill he takes twice a day. That money buys a month's worth of the prescription. They are going to use some of the money to pay down the $60,000 owed on the home and get it out of foreclosure.


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