April 9, 2007
Sigma Nu Charity Bowl raises $100,000 for Delta teen paralyzed in football game
By Susan Christensen
Health and Research News Service
OXFORD, Miss.—Until he googled the word “paralysis,” University of Mississippi senior Matthew Marks had never heard of Robert Cassidy.
But after reading about the Ruleville teen, Marks was sure he had found the perfect recipient for funds raised at the Sigma Nu Charity Bowl.
Who better to benefit than a guy whose courage mimics that of the late Chuckie Mullins, the Ole Miss defensive back who first inspired the annual event. Both athletes broke their necks playing football, yet neither let the tragedy define his future.
“Chuckie’s motto was never ever quit, and Robert has taken on that attitude,” said Marks, a Monroe, La., native who is philanthropy chairman for Sigma Nu. “He’s an amazing individual. After meeting him, we felt like we couldn’t have picked a better person.”
Since its 1990 inception, the Charity Bowl football game has raised about $1.25 million to benefit people with spinal cord injuries – including $100,000 for Cassidy, Marks said.
“I will be forever grateful,” said Cassidy, a lanky 17-year-old who was paralyzed from the chest down during the first play of his second high school football game. “The Sigma Nus really went all out for me.”
The Charity Bowl takes place in Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and features a clash between the Sigma Nus and whichever fraternity puts up the most money to play. (This year it was the Alpha Tau Omegas.)
Cassidy was honored during a halftime presentation that put him in the company of Ole Miss coach Ed Orgeron, All-America linebacker Patrick Willis and one of the university’s most noteworthy Sigma Nus -- New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
Manning is just the latest NFL star to reach out to Cassidy since he made sports page headlines. Cassidy recently spent some time with Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Ellis Wyms. And Washington Redskins defensive back Fred Smoot and New Orleans Saints running back Deuce McAllister both visited Cassidy during his more than two-month stay at Methodist Rehabilitation Center in Jackson. McAllister’s Catch22 Foundation even contributed $10,000 to the proceeds raised at the Charity Bowl.
“He’s a blessed kid,” Smoot said. “He’s going to make the best of his situation – regardless.”
A classic example was Cassidy’s demeanor while at Methodist Rehab. Hospital staff said the outgoing teen spent his time cheering on other patients, many of whom had less severe injuries than he did. “He never seemed to be angry, and he had a peace and acceptance about him,” said Methodist Rehab occupational therapist Suzanne Colbert. “He knew God had a plan for him.”
Cassidy is fond of saying: “Whatever life throws at you, you’ve just got to roll with it.” But he’s grateful that the Sigma Nus’ generosity will mean a few less roadblocks in his path. “The money will go towards transportation, medical bills and school,” he said. “I’m going to college, that’s my main goal.”
Robert Cassidy, center, shares the Charity Bowl spotlight with Ole Miss linebacker Patrick Willis and Sigma Nu philanthropy chairman Matthew Marks.
New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning, far right, congratulates Robert Cassidy at the Sigma Nu Charity Bowl as Sigma Nu members look on.