Jacksonville Sports News, Sam Kouvaris - SamSportsline.com

Miami Project

I spent the weekend in Atlantic City at the Roger King Invitational golf tournament. King is the premier syndicater in commercial television, handling shows like Jeopardy, Wheel of Fortune and Oprah. He’s a big supporter of the Miami Project for the Cure for Paralysis and the Buonoconti Fund and the proceeds from his tournament go directly to the fund.

The Washington Post Company, the parent company of my station, Channel 4, is also a patron of the Miami Project and a sponsor of the golf tournament. So, our General Manager invited me to go along for the banquet and the dinner. The banquet had a very extensive silent auction with some fun sports memorabilia, some jewelry and some exotic spirits. The Trump organization, through the Taj Mahal on the boardwalk was also a big supporter, and also donated a check for $250,000 at the banquet.

The golf was nice on a links course that really felt like Ireland with the winning team finishing at 20 under (not us!). Anyway they raised a lot of money, over a half-million dollars and had a bunch of celebrities involved from Bob Griese (who played with us and was more personable that he’s been when I’ve been around him in the past) to Bob Beamon and Gerry Cooney (whose team won!). Cooney was a hoot by the way, as funny as anybody and really just enjoyable to be around. I don’t know if it’s an act but if so it’s a pretty good one.

I saw my friend Scott Clark, a sportscaster in New York and spent some time with Garo Yepremian and his family (very nice people). Leonard “Truck” Robinson was there and I spent a few minutes with him talking about playing at Raines High School. He told me he was a much bigger baseball player than basketball but he made a good living at basketball as a pro. He’s living in Phoenix now.

But the most impressive part of the weekend was to hear, watch and experience the commitment Nick Buonoconti has to his son and to the Miami Project. Mark Buonoconti was a linebacker at the Citadel when he dislocated his neck 21 years ago and lost the use of all of his limbs. His father, Nick, the Hall of Fame linebacker, made a commitment that night to raise money to look for a cure for paralysis.

And I mean a commitment.

Buonoconti was, and is convinced that all it will take is money to find a cure for paralysis. Not research, not desire, but money will fuel all of those things and find a cure.

And he might be right.

After raising millions of dollars, the Miami Project is past the research phase and onto clinical trials of different “cures” for paralysis. They’ve been able to restore movement in paralyzed lab rats in nearly 75% of the tests. And they think they can implement those treatments directly to humans. That very exciting for the people involved and their families and if it happens it’s because of one dad’s love for his son.

I mean the bond and commitment between Nick and Mark Buonoconti is the most impressive thing I saw all weekend. I hope it happens for a lot of reasons, but also to validate the commitment they’ve made to find a cure. It’ll show that love and hope can get things done. I know that’s hokey sounding but they’re the driving force behind this search for a cure

Right now they’re working on about 60 “cures” at the Miami Project and believe that they’re going to get it done soon. “I’m sick and tired of seeing my son in a wheelchair,” Nick said from the podium on Saturday night. “I want him to stand up and put his arms around me and give me a hug.”

“I’m sick of it too,” Mark said from his wheelchair when asked to speak on stage. That was followed by Mark thanking his parents for allowing him to become the person he has (while being stuck in a wheelchair!)

Pretty powerful stuff.

If you’d like to learn more about the Miami Project, their website is