Pro stars Justin Tuck, Chris Duhon aid Wheelchair Charities
Howie Evans | 4/12/2011, 4:38 p.m.
Justin Tuck, the New York Giants' all-pro defensive end, was the featured honoree at the Wheelchair Charities' 22nd annual awards gala.
Chris Duhon of the Knicks was a virtual last-second stand-in accepting for honoree C.C. Sabathia, who was unable to accept his Wheelchair Charities Athlete of the Year Award, as he was busy at Yankee Stadium taking care of other business.
Tuck, who has joined the ranks of the top defensive players in the NFL, came early and stayed until the end at the event that was held at the New York Hilton. The big guy, a graduate of Notre Dame University, had a "hello" to almost everyone who attended the affair, a major fundraiser for Wheelchair Charities.
Tuck and Duhon showed a lot of love in particular to the many paraplegics and quadriplegics who were bused over from the Coler-Goldwater Specialty Hospital on Roosevelt Island. They were indeed the "stars of the evening," as they whizzed around the reception room. Many were in their brand-new wheelchairs, which are like a "home on wheels." The chairs are recent additions to the hospital, thanks to Hank Carter, who, through his army of volunteers, has raised over $20 million since he founded the organization to aid those unable to aid themselves. It all began with neighborhood fundraisers centered in the Queensbridge Houses.
Today, Wheelchair Charities is at the forefront of research, equipment, programs and social services for the disabled. From the first vans that began rolling over 20 years ago, to the fleet of buses that transport patients around the city to sporting, cultural and educational events, Wheelchair Charities is an organization now emulated around the country.
For the patients past and present, Wheelchair Charities built a green house, a computer lab, and a weight and exercise room. There are now specialized beds that, with the flick of a switch, can turn the patients over in their beds. Patients with the new wheelchairs can do it all from the chairs, like turning off lights, turning on the television and juicing up their computers. One visiting the hospital can readily see where the money has gone from an obliging base of companies. Individuals like Bernadette Walker have been there from
the beginning. Rev. John Boyd and Pastor Edwin Reed joined the cause over 20 years ago. Lou Benson was there when the first Wheelchair Charities Basketball Classic tipped off with Bernard King scoring the first basket.
Kenny Smith, Mark Jackson, Ron Artest, Chris Mullin and other all-city and NBA stars were raised in the organization. Terrell Owens and Michael Vick are among a cadre of pro football stars who have made vital contributions to Wheelchair Charities. From the world of enter- tainment, Hal and Debbie Jackson (Inner City Broadcasting, WBLS-FM) spend every Christmas at the hospital, broadcasting live. "I thanked God for every- one who has helped over the years," said Carter. This is what Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and the legendary football coach Joe Paterno, along with Sabathia, would have seen had they been in attendance.
Both Mayor Franklin and Joe Paterno were victims of the weather, which caused their flights to be cancelled. But Justin Tuck was there. "The Wheelchair Charities is something I want to continue to be involved with," said Tuck, accepting his Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award from Louis Lanza, who, along with Pat Lanza,is a long-time supporter of Wheelchair Charities.
Tuck, partnering with his wife, Lauren, are involved with a breathtaking number of charitable and youth-serving organizations in New York, his hometown of Kellyton, Alabama, and around the country. Ms. Gaile Stevens, provost of Long Island University, accepted the Humanitarian of the Year Award, which was presented by Donald Schaefer.