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One man's dream, $6 million for charity Jerry Segal's 'labor of love' raises millions to benefit patients following spinal cord injuries and strokes

One man with quadriplegia. One group of friends. One dream. One day. $1 million raised for charity.

Welcome to Jerry Segal's world. Segal, a Philadelphia attorney, and his friends who have come together annually over the last 17 years to raise nearly $6.2 million, including an event-record $1 million last year, to support the patients of Magee Rehabilitation Hospital.

What makes this remarkable is that The Friends of Jerry Segal have kept up with larger golf events. The Segal Classic is operated by 38 volunteers and manages to raise seven figures in one day for a 96-bed rehabilitation hospital.

Jerry Segal's story isn't one of philanthropy as much as it is one of determination, dedication, love and loyalty.

Jerry Segal underwent neck surgery in California in 1988. When he awoke, he couldn't scratch an itch on his forehead. The spinal column at the tip of his neck had been touched during surgery, leaving Segal with quadriplegia. The center city attorney was transferred to Magee Rehabilitation Hospital where he was determined to rehabilitate and walk out of the hospital. Three months later, Segal did just that. And, he was able to return to work, and playing golf with friends.

"Magee is three blocks from my office and I passed it everyday, but never knew what it was," says Segal. "Thank God it was there."

Since leaving Magee, Segal has dedicated himself to raising money to help individuals with spinal cord injuries, strokes and other impairments reach their maximum level of independence. A few days each week, he visits Magee and shares his story with patients and inspires them to work as hard as they can.

While words of encouragement help, having the proper resources is necessary. Segal, his wife Carolyn and some of his friends held a golf outing in 1990 that raised $56,000. Little did Jerry and his friends know what they would be embarking upon - the largest single-day charity golf event in the Greater Philadelphia Region. The event has featured Gov. Edward Rendell, as honorary chair. In addition, NBA Hall-of-Famer Billy Cunningham, former NHL standouts Bernie Parent, Brian Propp and Dave Schultz, former Eagle Mike Mamula, local TV and radio personalities such as Beasley Reece, Scott Palmer, Mark Zumoff and Howard Eskin, and many others routinely participate.

Segal works tirelessly to secure sponsorships and auction items that make the event a success. Without his efforts and that of his friends, the Segal Classic would never be nearly as successful as it is. He is as determined to help others as he was to help himself following his injury.

"It's a labor of love," says Segal. "I have no conscience when it comes to Magee and improving the lives of the patients who are now in similar conditions to me. There isn't anyone I won't ask to support this cause."

Among the major accomplishments of the Friends of Jerry Segal is the formation of the Jerry&Carolyn Segal Center for Community Skills. This rooftop streetscape helps patients prepare to overcome real-life obstacles such as potholes, manhole covers, cobblestone, curbs of varying heights, going to a mailbox and getting in and out of a car.

"When I left the hospital, I initially had some issues with traveling along sidewalks," says Segal. "The world isn't made of linoleum flooring like a hospital."

Other things the Classic has funded include:

  • A new van to transport patients
  • New equipment such as a new treadmill for locomotor training, wheelchairs, cushions
  • The Segal Family and Friends Meal Program which has provided nearly 50,000 meals for family members so patients can eat with their loved ones
  • Subsidize guest housing at the Windsor Hotel so family members can stay near their loved ones during rehabilitation
  • Subsidize peer-mentor programs

The 18th annual Jerry Segal Classic is scheduled for Friday, Sept. 28, at Green Valley and ACE country clubs.

Magee Rehabilitation Hospital, founded in 1958, is a 96-bed specialty medical rehabilitation hospital providing physical and cognitive rehabilitation services. Magee’s flagship facility is located in Center City Philadelphia. In addition to the main campus that offers comprehensive services for spinal cord injury, brain injury, stroke, orthopedic replacement, amputation, pain management and work injury, Magee provides an expanding out-patient network serving the surrounding communities. In 1985, Magee’s brain injury rehabilitation program became the first in the nation to be accredited by the Commission on the Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities. Magee partnered with Jefferson Hospital to create one of the nation’s 14 federally designated centers for spinal cord injury rehabilitation. Magee has been rated one of America’s leading rehabilitation hospitals by U.S. News&World Report. Magee provides treatment to more than 5,000 individuals annually. Magee is authorized to treat wounded military personnel returning from war. Magee is not an Obligated Group Affiliate.

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