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VCU Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation receives gift from spinal cord injury foundation

From left: Becky Britt, sister of Gerry Bertier; Buck Sutton, executive director of the Gerry Bertier #42 Foundation and Bertier’s cousin; Cheryl Sutton, Bertier’s cousin; William McKinley, M.D., professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; and Jean Agnew, Bertier’s mother. Photo by Malorie Janis
From left: Becky Britt, sister of Gerry Bertier; Buck Sutton, executive director of the Gerry Bertier #42 Foundation and Bertier’s cousin; Cheryl Sutton, Bertier’s cousin; William McKinley, M.D., professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation; and Jean Agnew, Bertier’s mother. Photo by Malorie Janis

The Virginia Commonwealth University Spinal Cord Injury Rehabilitation and Research Center has received a $20,000 gift from the Gerry Bertier #42 Foundation.

The money was raised in September during a golf tournament in memory of Bertier – a former Virginia high school athletic star who suffered a spinal cord injury and later became an advocate for people with disabilities.

“This gift is further validation of the importance of our work in an overall effort to maximize hope, function and quality of life for these individuals who have sustained catastrophic injuries and face significant challenges,” said William McKinley, M.D., professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

According to McKinley, the center will soon be outlining specific goals for the gift, which will be used to promote spinal cord awareness, education and research efforts.

McKinley accepted the gift on behalf of the department from members of Bertier’s family, including his mother, Jean Agnew, and his sister, Becky Britt. Buck Sutton, Bertier’s cousin and executive director of the Bertier #42 Foundation, and his wife, Cheryl, also accompanied the group in their visit to the VCU Medical Center’s PM&R unit and therapy gym.

“We see our foundation as a leader, a professional institution,” said Buck Sutton. “We hope we can further the great work you do here at VCU. I wish we could do what you do — we can’t, but we can support what you do.”

Bertier was portrayed in the 2000 film “Remember the Titans,” which starred Denzel Washington as the coach of the T.C. Williams High School football team in Alexandria following the school’s desegregation. In the film, Bertier’s character, an all-star player, is in an automobile accident while celebrating one of the team's victories and is sent to the hospital. While Bertier’s character is unable to play in the final game because of his injuries, the team goes on to win the championship and sets an example for the town.

VCU is one of just 20 institutions nationwide to achieve federal designation as a Model Systems of Spinal Cord Injury Care. The goal of VCU’s SCI program is to pursue medical and therapeutic advancements in care and outcomes for individuals with spinal cord injuries. For more information, visit http://www.pmr.vcu.edu/programs/sci/default.aspx.