Friday, Feb. 22 was a snowy carefree day off from school for most WCU students; however, for a small handful, Friday marked the beginning of a 36-hour Curl-a-Thon Curling extravaganza.The venue was held at 65 Plank Ave., Paoli, Pa., at the Philadelphia Curling Club. The event, co-planned by the club’s Curl-a-Thon Committee, kicked off Friday at 6 p.m. and lasted until Saturday, Feb. 23 at 10 p.m. They raised over $16,000 through the National Transplant Assistance Fund and Catastrophic Injury Program (NTAF) for Jeff Harris, 24, longtime club member.
“This weekend was truly magical,” Steve Harris, father of Jeff Harris, said. “Jeff’s tears spoke for all of the Harris family as the club provided us with an experience that we will always cherish and record as a high point in our lives.a huge step and help to Jeff in reassembling the pieces of his life.”
Among the many teams to compete, one team in particular was comprised of three WCU student alumnae. Michael Finkle, Ted Lai and Michael Pavalic, of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, donated generously and actively participated throughout the weekend. The sisters of Alpha Sigma Tau also made a kind monetary contribution to the cause.
The event consisted of 36 consecutive hours of curling. Twenty teams playing eight-ends each, raffles and a silent auction filled with items graciously donated by this past men’s and women’s Olympic curling rinks, a Guitar Hero tournament, an open bar, dancing, board games, a poker tournament and WCU sophomore student Matthew Crater, who DJed the event and kept the spirit and morale high through the late evening and early morning hours.
“It was my pleasure,” Crater said. “I was glad to be able to help out at the event. “It was great to see everyone having a great time for a good cause.”
Harris, a member of the Philadelphia Curling Club for the majority of his 24 years, suffered from a life-altering spinal cord injury this past summer while vacationing at a beach in North Carolina.
After being pulled from the water by a family in passing and just barely resuscitated, Harris survived. His injuries were extensive. Harris shattered his C6 vertebrate in his neck, leaving him quadriplegic with no use of his legs and little use of arms.
Harris, who once resided on the 600 block of Matlack Street, just steps away from Jake’s Bar and Riggtown Downtown, recognizes the challenges of his life-long road to recovery. With a bright of optimism, he has recently been released from the hospital.
“Jeff has always enjoyed active pursuits such as curling, biking, boating, soccer and track,” according to Derek W. Tomlinson, President of the Philadelphia Curling Club. “He competed at the national level in both curling and track. Jeff had aspirations of becoming a member of the USA Curling Team at the Olympics one day.”
Harris chose the Magee Rehabilitation Center in Philadelphia to complete his initial months of therapy because of their active involvement in and support of wheelchair sports and other forms of recreation.
“He still has this ambition to compete and has set his sights on the highest levels of wheelchair curling,” Tomlinson said. “Jeff has conquered many challenges both on the ice and off, including pneumonia and many other complications related to his type of injury. Jeff’s injury represents huge lifelong challenges. Never one to give up, Jeff is determined to return to curling. We, his Philadelphia Curling Club family and friends, want to help him overcome these challenges.”
The $16,000 raised will be used towards paying off some of Harris’s uninsured medical expenses associated with his spinal cord injury, and also to allow the club to become wheelchair accessible for him.
If you would like to make a monetary contribution, please visit www.catastrophicfund.org referencing Jeff Harris.
Jessica Todd-Marrone is a third-year student majoring in international relations with minors in journalism and Spanish. She can be reached at JT608859@wcupa.edu.