The 2020 Craig Hospital PUSH Gala on February 29 raised a record-setting amount for Craig programs, research, and patients. More than 1,200 generous event attendees and donors contributed more than $2,033,000.
Proceeds from the PUSH dinner fund Craig’s unique Culture of Care programs like Therapeutic Recreation, Assistive Technology, Music Therapy, Community Reintegration, and school and teen programs – which are generally not covered by insurance. PUSH funds also support spinal cord and brain injury research, including ongoing studies and clinical trials aimed at improving outcomes, reducing long-term complications, and enhancing the quality of life for those affected by these traumatic injuries.
Of the $2 million raised, more than $771,000 was committed by generous donors to the paddle auction for the Craig Foundation’s Patient Assistance Fund. This fund helps patients meet urgent financial needs resulting from their injury. At PUSH, Michael and Karen Long pledged $50,000 to establish a Patient Assistance fund in honor of Canadian race car driver Robert “Robbie” Wickens, a driver with Arrow’s IndyCar team, Arrow McLaren SP. Robbie rehabilitated at Craig following his spinal cord injury in a crash in 2018. The fund will provide a safety net for patients and families whose financial means are inadequate to meet the financial burdens associated with a catastrophic injury such as durable medical equipment, home modifications, and emergency financial support.
The 2020 PUSH Impact Award was given to the Buschling Family of St. Louis. The award is presented to a Craig Hospital graduate or family in recognition of their perseverance, dedication, and determination to adapt to the injury and use the experience to make a positive difference in society. Honorees serve as positive and influential role models to others in similar situations while impacting the broader community through their professional or personal achievement, innovation, advocacy, collaboration or service.
Dane, Randy, Tammie, and Josh Buschling are the founders of Brain Buddies, a grassroots organization in St. Louis that works to connect individuals with brain injuries for mentoring, support, and social activities. The family started the organization following Dane’s brain injury.
In 2016, Dane, a real estate lawyer, stepped outside a restaurant to take a phone call. Ten minutes later, he was on his way to the hospital with a severe brain injury and a five percent chance of survival. No one knows what happened. After three weeks in a coma and three more in a long-term acute care hospital, Dane made his way to Craig.
Dane is currently still in full-time rehabilitation while volunteering at the Missouri Brain Injury Association, maintaining an active social life, completing required continuing legal education and co-founding Brain Buddies with his family in April 2018.
Also at the dinner, Colin Heffern accepted the Dave and Gail Liniger Spirit of Craig Award. This award recognizes an individual or family who brings to life the spirit of Craig Hospital through significant direct hospital involvement, philanthropic support, advocacy and volunteer efforts on Craig’s behalf, service to patients, or leadership at the hospital or foundation. The award is named in honor of Craig graduates Dave and Gail Liniger, founders of RE/MAX International, who truly reflect the Spirit of Craig in their own lives.
Colin Heffern is an advocate, traveler and educator.
A native of Cheyenne, Wyoming, Colin sustained a C4 spinal cord injury belly-flopping from a tree branch into a pile of leaves during his freshman year at Colorado State University. He completed rehab at Craig and returned to CSU, earning his BS in Landscape Architecture in 2010. He then pursued Masters's degrees in Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning at the University of Southern California.
Following his adventurous spirit and love of nature, Colin began working for the National Park Service. As a Project Manager, he guides planning projects, some of them supporting accessibility initiatives to improve visitor spaces and programs at parks. He frequently travels for work and pleasure and routinely defies stereotypes placed on individuals with high injuries.
Since 2016 Colin has led a biweekly class focused on independent lifestyles for patients with high spinal cord injuries. He is also a volunteer peer mentor at Craig.
The 20th-anniversary PUSH event will be held on Saturday, April 17, 2021.