SALISBURY — In October of 2010, 20-year-old James Cook suffered a spinal cord injury in a car accident while riding as a passenger with members of his battalion to a Virginia Tech ROTC event. Advised by doctors that he will never be able to walk again, his strength of character and positive attitude have kept him from accepting the prognosis that his injury is permanent or an inhibition to achieving his life goals.
When he graduated Summa Cum Laude from Wicomico High School in 2009, Cook was a scholar-athlete with an outstanding track record of leadership both on the field and in the community.
As an Eagle Scout, Cook gave back many hours of service to the community in which he was raised, including the construction and landscaping of the Kratzer Memorial at the Salisbury Zoo.
In school, he served as a member of the JROTC and served as a battalion commander his senior year. His real passion, however, was sports. At Wicomico High, he was a three-sport athlete and All-American varsity lacrosse player, serving as team captain his junior and senior year.
Resume in hand, he applied and was nominated to attend the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, but ultimately chose to accept Virginia Tech’s offer to become a part of their Honors Engineering Program, Corps of Cadets and Naval ROTC units.
His dream was to graduate from Virginia Tech with a degree in aeronautical engineering and become a Naval Aviator. While his dream to fly appears to be lost, as a result of his injury, Cook continues to fight for a chance to walk again.
Says father David Cook, "This is the toughest thing a man could do… [but] James is not a quitter."
After spending a month in the Intensive Care Unit and surgery to stabilize his spinal column, Cook was transferred to a hospital in Georgia for six weeks before finally being sent to Kennedy Krieger in Baltimore.
Despite his earlier prognosis, Cook continues to fight for the ability to walk again and hopes to take part in a new physical therapy program, called Project Walk, in June.
"James’ dream is to someday walk again and that is why he wants to do Project Walk," says his father.
Located in California, Project Walk’s mission is "to provide an improved quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries through intense exercise based recovery programs, education, support and encouragement."
A new therapy not covered by medical insurance, this three-week, five-step program attempts to stimulate the nervous system through intense physical therapy.
In addition to his continued recovery, he will participate in a National Wheelchair Lacrosse tournament in May and return to Virginia Tech in pursuit of a degree in mechanical engineering in the fall.
Family and friends invite the public to join them on June 3, at the Fountains in Salisbury for a fundraiser to benefit Cook’s continued recovery and the medical costs of attending Project Walk.
The fundraiser will include music featuring professional pianist Luba Paskoza, light fare, a silent auction and live auction. Auction items include vacation packages as well as baskets from local restaurants and businesses.
"We are overwhelmed and grateful for all of the support that has come in support of James," says the family.
Sponsored by the Elks Lodge of Salisbury, Cook has also decided to raffle off his 1998 silver BMW convertible to help raise funds so that he can pursue his dream of walking again.
Tickets can be purchased at the Hebron Bank on Carroll Street, Community Pharmacy on South Salisbury Blvd. and the sales office of the Fountains of Salisbury as well as at the fundraiser.
The drawing itself will be held on Aug. 5 at the Elks in Salisbury. Donations and gifts for the fundraiser are welcome and can be dropped off at Community Pharmacy on South Salisbury Blvd. or to have someone pick up your donation please call Martha Farace at 410-726-7528.
For more information about the fundraising event, visit www.19willwalk.org.