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Basketball Benefit for Those with Brain Injuries

By Marian Dickson
Walter Wakwe, MD, a general surgery resident and postdoctoral surgery research fellow at Emory, was first introduced to Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse by John Pitts, MD, a buddy from medical school.  Pitts was on a quest for a ringer and recruited Wakwe to play in the nonprofit’s 2012 inaugural basketball benefit, Jawbones vs. Sawbones.  Wakwe played high school sports, maintains an active lifestyle, and he’s tall.  He was an obvious choice for the Sawbones to have a court advantage.  Wakwe didn’t disappoint. In fact, he was named MVP.
“I really enjoyed participating in the event.  I had a great time with my teammates, who were all incredibly enthusiastic.  The coaches were great and had every play planned out.  For amateurs, our team was impressively athletic.  I think it was this and our competitive spirit that kept us in the lead.”
Though the game was close, the Sawbones beat their attorney opponents and Wakwe, along with local attorney Seam Park, was recognized as his team’s MVP.  Yet with 500+ attendees, over $25,000 raised and lots of press, the true winners of the basketball benefit were the members of Side by Side.  Unique in Georgia, Side by Side is the only nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting people with brain injuries along their rehabilitative journeys.  Based in Stone Mountain, Side by Side operates a day program in which its 50 current members and staff work side by side keep their Clubhouse running and to support members as they relearn skills, rebuild relationships, and restore meaning and purpose to their lives.  These services, though less costly than comparable medical care, are not inexpensive.  It takes approximately $100 a day per person to provide this rehabilitative support.  The netted $20,000 from the inaugural basketball benefit went a long way in providing such care.
As a surgeon, Wakwe often sees devastating brain injuries. He understands that rehabilitation continues for years after the initial recovery period. “Side by Side Brain Injury Clubhouse provides a unique service to people with brain injuries.  It’s the last piece of my patients’ continuum of care.  It really helps people improve.”
The Jawbones and Sawbones will meet again on the court, this time at Decatur High’s gym on March 16th at 7 p.m.  This year’s benefit, presented by Cash, Krugler & Fredericks, LLC and Long & Holder, LLP, will also include a free throw contest, exciting half-time entertainment, and silent auction.  Of course, Wakwe will return to defend his title but prominent Atlanta attorney and Side by Side Board President, Jim Long, insists “this [defeat] will not happen again.” Rumor has it Jim has signed up a few Jawbone ringers for next month’s revenge brawl.  For more information and to purchase tickets, $10 each, visit or contact their Resource Development Director, Marian Dickson at 770-469-9355.

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