Friends for Michael fundraising in full swing

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

General Manager

With one major event down, Friends for Michael is going strong with its fundraising efforts for 2009.

Matthew Brent, president of the organization, said the group’s annual dinner in May went well, with about 150 people in attendance. But that’s not all the spinal cord research organization has going.

The group also tries to help individuals in the community with needs related to spinal cord injuries. “We’ve helped a lot of people in Henry County, and sometimes we’ll branch outside,” Brent said. “We’re pretty much limiting it to Kentucky.”

In addition to making donations to research centers at the Universities of Louisville and Kentucky, Friends for Michael is creating a resource room at Frazier Rehabilitation Center that will be named after the organization, or its namesake, Michael Brent.

“It’s going to be ... a room with computers and televisions and education material for the patients,” Brent said. “It’s also a place where they can go and relax for awhile while they’re not in therapy.”

Another big project on the horizon for the group is raising money to create an all-accessible playground at the new Henry County Recreation and Services Park on U.S. 421. “That’s an expensive project,” Brent said, noting that the group has applied for grants, and some local builders and suppliers might donate materials.

Over the years, the group has helped people purchase wheelchairs and batteries. “All that stuff is so expensive,” Brent said. “My brother’s wheelchair was $70,000. Once you get into something like that, a battery goes dead, and that’s not cheap to replace, so we try to help people (get) going.”

And providing the equipment to those who need it is one thing that has touched Brent. “The quality of life that a wheelchair ... gives that person is so amazing,” he said. “They can be so limited without that piece of equipment.”

Being able to provide wheelchairs and build ramps for those who need it means a lot to Brent, who said that his brother would not have been able to go to college and get a masters degree without those things.

Saturday night, the group will have a booth at the Smith-Berry Winery dinner and concert, featuring the Jimmy Davis Band. At the booth, Friends for Michael will have information about their organization, as well as the all access playground.

After that, the group will host a golf scramble on Sept. 16 at the Henry County Country Club, and their annual 5K walk, run and wheel at 8 a.m., Sept. 26, at Henry County High School. Both events will feature prizes, and the golf scramble will include at least one big prize — a trip to Florida.

This will mark the second year that Friends for Michael’s 5k Run, Walk or Wheel will be part of a three series race in the Kentucky chapter of USA Track and Field.

More information and events can be found at the organization’s Web site, friendsformichael.org.

Tickets for the Smith-Berry concert and dinner are $19.95 in advance, or $25 at the door, plus tax. Reservations are not required, but are strongly encouraged.

The golf scramble costs $60 per person, and participants are asked to bring their own four-man teams. Brent said the fees for the run, walk and wheel are $20 per person, or $15 before Sept. 20.


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