Writing Services Donated for Traumatic Brain Injury Fundraiser – The “Reaching Out for Rob”– Public Relations Campaign

When Dave Benjamin received an email from a friend requesting a donation for the “Reaching Out for Rob” traumatic brain injury (TBI) recovery fundraiser, he knew he wanted to help in a larger capacity because he had witnessed the impact that TBI can have on a person’s life. Soon it became his May 2008 Self-Expression and Leadership Program community project.

Benjamin’s close friend, Tracy Lussenhop, suffered a TBI in a car accident 18 years earlier. Lussenhop endured a 20-day coma, five brain surgeries, a tracheotomy, feeding tube, and plastic surgery on her left hand. As a result of the accident, her entire college education was completely erased, and she literally had to re-learn how to eat, crawl, walk, talk, read, write and live again.

“And it’s not only the survivor’s life that’s impacted; it also impacts the lives of friends and family,” said Dave Benjamin.

Benjamin’s experience with Lussenhop inspired him to contact the Committee for Rob and donate his writing services to draft press releases and a ready-to-publish feature story to promote the Reaching Out for Rob fundraiser on May 15, 2008.

Versions of the ready-to-publish featuure story were published in five newspapers three weeks before the event and one feature and one editorial was published after the event (The Medias: The Frankfort Station, The Herald News, The Lincoln-Way Sun, Tribune.com, and The SouthtownSTAR).

And the fundraiser was a huge success. Over 700 people attended at $30.00 apiece plus it featured a live auction, silent auction, split the pot raffles, Texas hold‘em tournament, bean bag tournament, DJ, dancing, “Team Rob” t-shirts, “RobStrong” bracelets and four main courses of food provided by Aurelio’s Pizza.

TBI has a long road to recovery. Donations are still being accepted. If anyone would like to donate, call 815-212-0448 or mail your check payable to “Reaching Out for Rob”, P.O. Box 1245, Frankfort, IL 60423.

Below is the ready to publish feature story and fundraiser announcement:

Frankfort man recovering from second brain surgery


by Dave Benjamin

April 23, 2008


Rob Jarigese, 29, of Frankfort is recovering from his second brain surgery after suffering a traumatic brain injury when he fell down a flight of stairs at a friend’s house Dec. 23, 2007.


“This is the last chapter [of surgery] in this injury,” said neurological surgeon Dr. Leslie Schaefer. “You can never throw in the towel for people with severe brain injury. He is my miracle patient. Rarely does anyone survive with injuries as serious as his.”

On April 8, Dr. Schaefer performed a craniectomy – the installation of a protective three inch in diameter metal plate on Jarigese’s skull cap.


The original three inch diameter of skull tissue was removed on Christmas Eve during emergency surgery at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn to allow the brain to swell and heal without any obstructions.


“He’s been looking forward to having this surgery behind him,” Rob’s mother, Debbie Jarigese said. “He was really nervous about it, but I kept telling him that he has ‘been to hell and back’ and that this was a walk in the park.”


“I want my life back to normal”, Rob Jarigese said. “I was in the hospital for two-and-a-half months. It felt like a week. I want to move back into my house and get back to work pipefitting.”


A long road to recovery


On Christmas Eve Rob’s condition had turned for the worse. He was in a coma and had hemorrhages on both frontal regions of the brain. His pupils were fixed and dilated and his heart was racing at 190 beats per minute.


Father Patrick Henry of St. Catherine of Alexandria gave him his last rites and performed a healing ceremony as medications were given moments before the emergency surgery.


“We thanked God and a wonderful staff at Christ Medical Center,” Debbie Jarigese said. “They said it’s a miracle he even survived.”


On February 27, Advocate Christ Medical Center received the Beacon Award. The award recognizes the nation’s top hospital critical care units.


“In a moment where friends and family members felt helpless, Nurse Diane Lelo took immediate action to stabilize Rob’s condition,” Mike Jarigese said.


“It’s the type of critical care that we provided for Rob that attributed to this award,” director of adult patient care services Lynn Hennessy said.


Measurements of recovery


According to Debbie, recovery was measured hour by hour, day by day, week by week and now month by month.


“Three weeks after the accident he looked like a mountain man that lost about 34 pounds as he was slowly becoming aware that something terrible had happened,” said Debbie. “It broke our heart to see him that way.”


“He was taking his first steps and saying his first words. It took thirty-six days till he was able to crack his first smile.”


“But measuring Rob’s progress on a monthly basis is truly remarkable. At this time two months ago he was eating through a feeding tube, sore all over, barely audible, not moving his lips, not walking, not moving his neck or eyes.”


“Through this time, family and friends were our rock. That’s what got us through each day,” said Debbie. “It will take me the rest of my life to write all of the ‘thank you’ notes to everyone who supported us through this tough time. Without everyone we might have caved a long time ago.”


Two days after the successful April 8 surgery, Jarigese was home and ready to resume outpatient therapy at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC) in Homewood.


Games to Recovery


At RIC, Jarigese has had the luxury of participating in ‘Wii-habilitation’. Wii, the hottest video game on the market, has been injecting fun and games into the routine of physical and occupational therapy. The hand-held motion-sensitive controls make onscreen figures play different sports, such as bowling, tennis, boxing and baseball disguising the fact that patients are working on balance, coordination and spatial focus.


“Wii-hab has had a positive impact on our clients,” clinical manager Jean VanderSanden said. “The game holds their attention and concentration since clients get immediate onscreen feedback for performance.”


According to VanderSanden, getting an additional Wii game console has become part of a group therapy project. Patients have organized a plan of action, drafted a solicitation letter, video request, and Top 10 list to send to Nintendo seeking a ‘Wii-donation’.


Reaching Out for Rob – Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery Fundraiser


The Committee for Rob Jarigese invites you to enjoy an evening of fun and fundraising, “Reaching Out for Rob” from 6:30 p.m. to midnight, May 15th at CD & Me, 23320 S. LaGrange Road, Frankfort.


Jarigese, 29, suffered a traumatic brain injury December 23 when he fell down a flight of stairs at a friend’s house. He suffered a skull fracture, coma, two-and-a-half months of hospitalization, two brain surgeries, and is scheduled for five months of outpatient physical and occupational therapy.


“The power of prayer and the support of friends and family have carried us this far,” said Debbie Jarigese. “We hang onto every thread of hope that we have for Rob’s full recovery.”


The fundraising evening will feature four main courses of food provided by Aurelio’s Pizza, a Texas hold’em tournament, bean bag tournament, silent auction, split the pot raffles, DJ and dancing. Attendees will also be able to purchase “Team Rob” t-shirts and “RobStrong” bracelets.


Tickets are $30.00 apiece. You may purchase tickets at the door or RSVP by calling 815-212-0448 or mail in your check payable to “Reaching Out for Rob” P.O. Box 1245, Frankfort, IL 60423. You will not receive tickets in advance. Reservation will be held at the door. All proceeds will help offset Rob’s rising medical and personal expenses. The Committee is also seeking volunteers and sponsors of silent auction items and raffle prizes for the event. Sponsors may have banner advertisements at the event.


Here’s the Tribune.com link:


About the author

Dave Benjamin

Writing Services Donated for Traumatic Brain Injury Fundraiser | bean bag chairs - June 14, 2009

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