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Michael A. Hughes Planned Giving Society Donors

Richard Coker

"If he continued to live, he would have done a great deal more." - Betty Coker

Richard A. Coker
Rick Coker was a very generous man. He was always eager to help and wanted to do as much for others as he possibly could. Rick helped many people during his lifetime, and it was no surprise that he had planned a generous legacy to a cause that became very close to his family and their hearts.

The story of Rick and Betty Coker's gift to the Reeve Foundation began in 1991 when Richard set out to create two charitable trusts. Betty admits candidly, "To be honest, at first Richard was basically just looking for a tax deduction, and didn't really know much about the Foundation. It wasn't until our niece was injured in a car accident leaving her quadriplegic that Richard really started doing some homework."

Compelled by their own family's tragedy, Rick and Betty's search for information brought more and more startling, and at times, devastating, facts about spinal cord injury to their attention; Betty recalls, "We found that it was mostly young people who were afflicted – a lot of times people who have their whole lives ahead of them. It was just mind boggling that so many young people are paralyzed." Betty and Rick's "beautiful and athletic" niece was no exception. She was only in her twenties when she sustained a spinal cord injury. Unfortunately, she eventually lost her life to an infection, a chronic issue for many with paralysis. The family was heartsick.

Rick and Betty, at that time in particular, were inspired by Christopher Reeve's persistence, his willingness to try everything he could, "It was very uplifting to see what [Chris] was doing with his life." Rick, like Christopher Reeve, was an avid equestrian – he had always ridden horses and spent his whole life around them. Rick bred horses for jumping, and also served as trainer for his two daughters. He was very aware of Chris' tragedy, as he himself was very familiar with the course where Chris had been injured.

Betty and Rick became donors of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation because they realized that unlike the very large, high profile charities, spinal cord injury does not receive enough support and attention proportionate to the number of people it affects. They saw the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation as one of many worthy, smaller organizations that often are not as well known. "Without funding for research and development," Betty observed, causes like spinal cord injury that "have a massive impact on society, simply get overlooked."

"Until something happens in your own life, until you see that an injury to a small section of the spinal cord – that's all it takes - can completely shut down someone's entire body – people just don't think about these things. Yet it has an enormous impact on all of society, because a great number of spinal cord injured people are young and will have to deal with paralysis and its many secondary complications – infections, depression, unemployment - for many, many, years, sometimes for decades. And it's not just the injured person, it's the whole family. The financial and emotional costs are immense."

Both Betty and Rick understood that there was enormous potential, through their planned giving, to provide help and hope to so many others. Betty recalls this was something Rick felt he not only wanted to do, but something he must do. Rick was "very gung-ho," she explains. Over the years, Rick and Betty had many conversations about their charitable gifts and intentions. In fact, just before undergoing a somewhat risky surgical procedure, Rick brought the subject up with Betty again, and decided he wanted to increase the amount of their gift.

We lost a committed and valued friend when Rick passed away in 2003. But through his planned gift to the Reeve Foundation, Rick's legacy of concern and compassion will continue to provide help and hope and make a real difference to others for many years to come. His generosity defined him, and Betty sees Rick's charitable trust as a logical extension of his charity in life – "If he continued to live, he would have done a great deal more."

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Gladys Field and her son Richard

With her son, Richard, Gladys Field is from a family drawn toward science.

Gladys Field
Gladys Field was a homemaker her entire life but when her husband Norman died in 1991 she took over the family finances. She had worked as a mathematician during World War II and seemed to have a knack for investments. Before she died in 2009 at the age of 88, Gladys made arrangements to leave several legacy investments.

"My mother was a very bright woman," says Richard Field, one of four children. "When she became a widow she really took the reins with regard to the family's finances. She kept the family house until she had a stroke and then moved to an assisted living facility."

Gladys had managed her resources well. She made plans before her death to invest in several charities. "She looked long and hard at how to best disburse her funds," says Richard. While the Field family had no direct connection to spinal cord injury or to Christopher Reeve, Gladys set up a charitable annuity trust to make an annual gift to the Reeve Foundation for 10 years.

"My family was always drawn toward science and toward medical research and health," says Richard, who is executor of Gladys's charitable trust. "She was very careful to pick an organization to fund, one that was the most productive, most exciting, and most useful. She liked the fact that the Reeve Foundation was working toward medical cures, but also that the organization addressed the care side too."

Richard said that when his mother made up her mind, she was living in an assisted care facility, and appreciated how quality of life was directly affected by care.

The Field family established an annual science speakers program in New Jersey named for Norman, who was a physicist and educator. Gladys's brother was also a scientist.

"We as a family are all very pleased my mother was able to make a contribution to the Reeve Foundation. We see good things there and trust the money will be used wisely. We hope to stay involved in Reeve Foundation activities."

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Evelyn Costello Marineau Lamont

Evelyn Lamont, a beloved inspiration to so many

Evelyn Costello Marineau Lamont
Evelyn Costello Marineau Lamont's bequest to the Reeve Foundation came as no surprise to her family - living the last 17 years of her life in a wheelchair after a car accident, Evelyn followed Christopher's story closely. She was inspired by his persistent search for a cure, the stand he took for those suffering from spinal cord injury, and his selfless devotion to helping those similarly situated.

Finding Christopher's actions inspirational may be common, but what stands out about Evelyn is that in her own family, in her own community, Evelyn had herself been a champion of those in need long before her accident. She was a veteran volunteer with the Marinette, Wisconsin County Elderly Services for 17 years, was on the board at her local Salvation Army, volunteered with Easter Seals Heart and Cancer Associations, and facilitated stroke and Alzheimer support groups.

Those close to Evelyn marveled at her positive, uplifting attitude. She believed that while her own accident was unfortunate, her life was still a blessing. Evelyn never made her disability an issue and relentlessly focused on others she could help. For instance, after discovering she received significant physical relief from water therapy at her local YMCA, Evelyn made sure the pool became wheelchair accessible so all seeking relief could find what she found.

When Evelyn spoke to her family about leaving a bequest to the Reeve Foundation, it was clear she understood how important every donation is in in the future for a cure. “One day these kids will be able to walk, it won't happen in my lifetime, but you never know…”

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John McConnell

"Know in your heart that you have helped." - John McConnell

John McConnell
"I'm not one who keeps trophies; I've won dozens of tennis tournaments and journalism awards. I don't keep that stuff. What's important is that you know in your heart that you have helped people."

When John McConnell and his fellow Reeve Board member, Matthew Reeve, ran the 2009 New York City Marathon, they pushed through the last half dozen miles by thinking about all the people who were supporting them and who helped get them to that point. Matthew, says John, "sailed to the end with a smile on his face."

This image also pays fitting tribute to John himself, a volunteer leader among leaders who is known at the Reeve Foundation –and beloved – for extending himself to others, from new Board members and volunteers to Team Reeve participants and other community members living with paralysis. For, above all else, when it comes to his exceptional volunteer service, John McConnell is compelled by his own experience with spinal cord injury after a bicycling accident that, in his words, "brought me back to the importance and need for resources and help."

Setting a positive example and helping others is second-nature to John, so it was only fitting when he named the Reeve Foundation as the sole charitable beneficiary in his will, designating a specific amount in support of the Reeve Foundation while also ensuring proper provisions for his family. For John, who says he has "come close to" death a few times, thinking and talking about estate planning was "liberating to deal with now so in the event something were to happen it would not be a burden to my children."

John emphasizes that making a planned gift "doesn't have to be a complicated process" and that such giving vehicles are an option for everyone. "Whether or not you're able to provide on an annual basis, hopefully you can provide at the end," he says.

John eloquently sums up his philanthropic philosophy: "I actually feel that we have a responsibility when we earn and are able to take care of ourselves, which most of us are, and we're so blessed and fortunate, to give back and to pay forward. That is the most meaningful part of day-to-day living. There are lessons, if your family and your children learn anything from you, it's that you give of yourself, not selfishly, but selflessly, for the benefit of others. That's what's the most important. That's what counts."

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders