For Immediate Release: Chicago January 6, 2012- Contact Kenneth Jennings Co-Founder, Board of Directors Gridiron Alliance Deacon Don Grossnickle, Co-Founder, Chairman, Board of Directors Gridiron Alliance: firstname.lastname@example.org
Oprah always quotes author Maya Angelou: 'when you know better, you do better.'
TIME FOR JUSTICE FOR ROCKY AND ANNETTE CLARK: HIGH SCHOOL CATASTROPHIC INJURIES ARE PARALYZING AND NO SAFETY NET IS NOW IN PLACE: TIME FOR A NEW LEGACY
The death of Gridiron Alliance Co-Founder, Rocky Clark on January 5, 2012 inspires now an ongoing unstoppable effort to sustain his legacy which is to improve the way high school athletes are treated after sustaining brain and spinal cord injuries. This objective is one of several aims of the Gridiron Alliance NFP organization which Rocky proudly helped form in 2009.
The Spirit of Rocky Clark cries out: “Beware and take action now to properly insure high school student athletes. Take action now, so that in the future, poverty will not break the heart and soul of family’s affected.” Poverty due to lack of insurance and financial aid painfully threatened daily life for Rocky and Annette Clark in the eleven year aftermath of incurable traumatic spinal cord injury.
High school spinal cord injured student athletes, by and large, unlike their college NCAA counterparts are most often left alone to fend for themselves. They are often isolated and without proper insurance to provide for their highly specialized care and demands in responding to the needs of quadriplegia. Consider in contrast the case of NCAA expansive coverage along with spectacular life-sustaining support from alums, coaches and the school community such as that received by Erick Le Grand, Rutgers player in October, 2010. Le Grand and college athletes who become injured offer a demonstrable guiding exemplary model for the kind of support for ALL injured student athletes that can boost morale and help make the tremendous adjustments. (See: http://www.scarletknights.com/Believe/)
Gridiron Alliance board member, Kenneth Jennings himself sustained a paralyzing injury in 1988 playing high school football. Jennings and others now call out for immediate change that would require school districts and the state high school associations to be required by law to properly insure student athletes at all times during practice and contests of all kinds.
Currently, the Illinois High School Athletic Association, ( IHSAA) only insures student athletes during “sanctioned events”. * Thus, Rocky Clark on that fateful day in October 2000, participated/played in a non-sanctioned, non-insured, IHSAA affiliated regularly scheduled football contest. Consequently, Clark had no state association insurance coverage. For 11 painful years he and his mom endured the sad consequence of facing his injury and poverty alone, unaided, abandoned. How is it possible that this organization apparently knows the inherent dangers and insures young athletes against catastrophe exclusively during tournaments yet places student athletes "at great risk" by not attending to the absolute need for investing gate receipts from regular contests and more and thus act responsibly to insure them? Rockie cries out now as he did while alive and indignant: "this is just wrong", I thought I should be covered for life."
Without paid professional access to 24 hour nursing care after the insurance ran out, is it possible that this gap in providing for Rocky might have hastened his death? His physician was quoted as raising the red flag of danger in allowing Rocky to live without professional nursing care. Was Rocky a victim of public apathy and lack of responsible due diligence on his behalf to protect participating student athletes that perform for the entertainment of spectators and more?
Illinois Representative 66th District- David Harris plans to look into legislation in the next Illinois General Assembly to address this situation. 800 West Central Road, Mount Prospect, IL 60056 (224) 635-2010 RepHarris@yahoo.com
Illinois Rep W. Davis Hazelcrest,-has worked on introducing an amendment to filed legislation that would address this issue. It is time to let our elected officials know that "Rocky Clark" policies, practices and force of law must require that participating student athletes are covered at all times thereby addressing the danger of catastrophic spinal cord injuries and more.
Fortunately, in a rare example of wise and responsible leadership, CS District 218 carried/invested in a ‘stop gap’ catastrophic injury policy that protected Rocky Clark, largely because his family could not afford personal health insurance. Those who love Rocky Clark are now left to speculate: Perhaps, had a second tier insurance policy covered Rocky after the limits of the school district coverage abruptly ended, the quality of life Rocky sought for him could have been thoughtfully and compassionately provided and thus extended his time on this earth? The tears of despairing Annette Clark now call out to enact justice and change. Rocky’s words of begging for change went unheeded. Superintendent John Byrne says: "Of course we look out after our athletes. The cost of insuring 6,000 District 218 students costs under $15K. It is simply the right thing to do."
Rocky Clark never once complained or expressed bitterness over his injury during eleven long and eventful years. Rocky loved sports to the end. However, he asked for change and was so often frustratingly ignored. The Gridiron Alliance loves safe and insurance protected sports.
Clark’s spinal cord injury suddenly changed so much and forced extreme ongoing personal care in order to sustain his life. For eleven painstaking years, Rocky and his family dealt with the reality of his paralysis of body, but never affecting his keen intellect and indomitable spirit. Rocky Clark was admittedly tormented trying somehow to reconcile how he was allowed to play sports and sacrifice his life, while no responsible party offered to assure that an insurance safety net was in place. Rocky and others now ask: How can it be so? In Illinois high school sports, as is the case in most states, schools, and school districts sadly, are not required to insure student athletes. Why?
Sadly, apparently schools do not have the time or personnel to be more diligent in informing parents and athletes of the apparent risks and encourage them to review health care coverage in place in order to consider if additional coverage might be in their interest. Active school booster clubs might possibly supply insurance options via fund raisers if the financial situation in the local school could not manage to handle/afford to insure student athletes?
Kenneth Jennings along with others, implore legislators everywhere to pass “Rocky Clark legislation” that requires with the force of law in the land to institute a satisfactory safety net to protect and insure student athletes. Ideally, such legislation should assure in the future that should catastrophic injury happen, insurance coverage might ease the pain and suffering of adjusting to traumatic brain and incurable paralyzing spinal cord injuries. Instituting a safety net might help confront subsequent poverty issues associated with making the gigantic adjustments it takes to deal with the aftermath of serious injury.
*Some States Require Insurance for High School Athletes-Legislative Research Unit Report-Source David Harris. (Sarah Franklin and Melissa Cate Senior Research Associates.
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