Monday, December 11, 2000

Football family established research center




By Tom O'Neill
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        In one sense, the years have been good to Marc Buoniconti. The sophomore linebacker for The Citadel tried to make a tackle against East Tennessee State on Oct. 26, 1985, and crumpled to the field with a crushed spinal cord.

        The 19-year-old son of former NFL All-Pro Miami Dolphins linebacker Nick Buoniconti became a celebrity paralysis victim.

        It was a decade before actor Christopher Reeve.

        Mr. Buoniconti is still paralyzed from the shoulders down, but thanks to the millions raised and the research done at the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis, founded by Nick Buoniconti, people like Steven Hacker of Amelia inch closer in recovery.

        “I lived a life with nothing but mobility,” Marc Buoniconti said. “I relied on my ability to perform, then it's taken away from me. It's almost indescribable.”

        The Miami Project is now the nation's largest spinal-cord research center. In October, it opened a $37 million facility, thanks in part to high-profile support from Mr. Reeve and others.

        Mr. Buoniconti spoke from Miami on a wide range of issues:

        • On Steve Hacker: “What I would say to him, do exactly what he's doing, draw on the love of family and friends. And keep his spirits up and know that you can live a very happy and productive life.”

        • To Mr. Hacker's family: “Always be there to support him, but you can overdo it. Allow him the independence he needs.”

        • On celebrity: “We really relied on the profile that my father had in order to take paralysis public.”

        • For more information, call the Miami Project at 1-800-STANDUP,or visit its Web site at www.miamiproject.miami.edu.

       



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