Jeff Harris Curl-a-thon – 9&10 March 2012

The 5th Annual Jeff Harris Curl-a-thon (www.curlathon.com) will be hosted at the Philadelphia Curling Club beginning the evening of Friday March 9th and continuing late into the night of Saturday March 10th 2012.  This year’s them is “Wild Wild West CurlaThon!”.  There will be a mini-bonspiel on Friday and Saturday, corporate bonspiel on Saturday morning and afternoon, and Open ice for those that want to try curling after 4 PM on Saturday.  There will be raffles, silent auctions, and even a Zumba Class.  Yes a Zumba Class at 10 PM on Friday.  Plus many other cool events and prizes to be won.

Jeff’s dad recently sent an open letter to the club, which best summarizes the reason for the event and the support that the Curl-A-Thon gives to Jeff through HelpHopeLive (HHL):

Dear Club Members:

I beg your indulgences for this additional load in your inboxes.  My purposes in writing this are threefold:  1). to express the Harris family’s continuing and deep appreciation for the myriad of ways our curling family has helped and supported our family, particularly Jeff, 2). recognizing that club membership has increased significantly over the last few years, to introduce newer club members, who may not know Jeff nor the origins or purposes of the Curlathon (3/9 & 3/10) to that event and 3). for those who know Jeff, to give you an update on him.

Approximately 15 years ago, Jeff was a member of the reinaugurated (by Wayne Anderson) juniors program at the club.  Thanks to Wayne, Jeff’s skill, and passion, grew quickly.  In his last year qualifying as a junior his team won the junior GNCC title and placed third in the nationals. That same year Jeff’s relay team (track) competed in the Winter Nationals (placing fifth) and he was awarded a letter in soccer on one of Great Valley’s better high school soccer teams, often leading the league in scoring during the season.  He clearly had a passion for athletics and looked at curling as a lifelong pursuit with a near term goal of national level competition.

Five years ago, just before the start of his senior year at Temple University and a semester to be taken in Tokyo, Jeff and a number of his soccer teammates were vacationing on the Outer Banks.  Chasing a soccer ball into the surf, Jeff was hit by a wave, flipped head over heals, his head hit the bottom, his neck was broken causing paralysis, and he drowned.  Fortunately, but several minutes later, he was spotted by another vacationer who pulled him from the surf.  As a worker in a hospital she had been trained in CPR and was able to revive Jeff.  He was airlifted to Norfolk General Hospital  where his broken neck was repaired and then flown to Magee in Philadelphia for five months of inpatient rehabilitation.

Post-Magee, and thanks largely to his sister, Jennifer, who was his driver and companion during his last semester, Jeff was able to complete his Temple degree requirements in Landscape Architecture. Enter NTAF, or HelpHopeLive (HHL) as it is now known.  The charitable focus of HHL is to help paralysis patients and those who care for them raise the funds to help defray what I call the “continuing tax” on their lives.  Aside from the very obvious needs of modified transport ($80,000 van), mobility ($20,000 electric wheelchair), home modifications every place they will ever live (big $), there are the less obvious, but more substantial and persistent, costs such as the aides which such patients need just to get out of bed in the morning and in bed at night ($30,000-$40,000 per year).  These are known as “maintenance expenses” and as such do not qualify for medical insurance reimbursement or tax deductibility.  This is where HHL and the Curlathon step in and are so vitally helpful.

Money raised from the Curlathon goes in three directions:  1).  Jeff leaves behind a portion for the curling club, in hopes that someday he is able to recruit and coach a wheelchair curling team and execute the physical modifications to the club that that will require, 2). The remainder goes to HHL, a small portion of which goes to support HHL’s operational activities on behalf of all its “clients”, with the lion’s share 3). to an HHL fund earmarked for Jeff  to draw on with HHL’s approval for the “maintenance expenses” mentioned above.  It is in this way that you all so directly help Jeff address this “tax” on his life and regain a good portion of his independence.

Pardon my parental pride, but Jeff is my hero and a continuing source of inspiration to me.  Not only has he attacked his new barriers vigorously, he has done so with a great attitude.  Aside from the obvious challenges, he’s taken on the challenge of furthering his education and has almost completed the requirements for his Master’s Degree in Urban Planning and Design at Penn, largely self-financed with loans.  Last fall he moved into an apartment on his own (but with morning and night aids, of course) and he hasn’t forgotten to give back.  Jeff visits Magee to meet with families and patients freshly facing his same challenges and he helps HHL whenever he can, a note on which I’ll finish this email.  As an update and/or introduction to Jeff you can go to HHL’s website (www.helphopelive.org).  There you can not only learn more about the mission of HHL but you can view a video about Jeff and HHL.  To see that, go to the home page and under the first picture, click on the first camera icon on the left to see “The Jeff Harris Story”. (Or you could go directly to Jeff’s video at http://www.youtube.com/watchv=sbrM1sr6kVw&lr=1&feature=mhee).

I fear I’ve stretched your good graces too far with this note and for that I apologize.  However, if you have the opportunity to participate in the upcoming Curlathon in any way, I hope you will know that in addition to being a fun event, with a great silent auction, lots of good food and the usual club camaradarie, it serves some great causes and your participation is a source of unflagging appreciation from the Harris family.  And, as if that isn’t enough, since there’s time planned for open curling, complete with lessons, now is the time for your non-curler friends to try curling without having to wait in that long line at the open house.  Contact me or Jess Todd-Marrone (jptm928@gmail.com) if you have questions or need details.

Best regards,
Steve Harris

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