After Father’s Brain Injury, Family Gives Back
December 27, 2022
After being struck by a car in September 2021, Mike Falcone spent 10 days on life support. Awakening to a dramatically weakened body, the Brick Township, New Jersey, resident couldn’t walk, speak or eat—a reality skillfully transformed by the team of physical, occupational and speech therapists at the Center for Brain Injuries at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.
“They brought our dad back to life,” says Mike’s eldest daughter, Michele Immordino. “Our family has been so impressed and overwhelmed that we felt we needed to give back to them in some way for what they’ve done.”
It didn’t take long for Mike’s family—which also includes wife, JoAnn; Michele’s sisters, Anissa and Carmel; and five grandchildren—to turn their gratitude into action. Relying on granddaughter Julia’s event planning skills, the group organized and held Hike for Mike, an in-person and virtual campaign that has raised nearly $31,000 and counting to benefit the JFK University Medical Center Foundation.
"Michael's story is such a powerful one, and the way his family has rallied support through their communities for Hike for Mike is so inspiring," says Sheri A. Marino, MA, CCC-SLP, executive director, JFK University Medical Center Foundation. "We are so touched by the outpouring of love and support Michael has received, and the manner in which his family and friends, as well as their communities, have joined forces to raise critical funding to benefit the Center for Brain Injuries at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Center. Their generosity will honor Michael's caregivers and support research, equipment and brain injury patients today and in the future."
Outpouring of Support
Hike for Mike was born not just from Mike’s struggles but from his long-standing love of walking and hiking. That’s what he was doing at the time of the accident that nearly proved fatal for the now 76-year-old retired electrical contractor. “My dad was very active, and his goal now is being able to walk unassisted,” Michele says.
The centerpiece of Hike for Mike was a walk-hike held at Roosevelt Park in Edison, New Jersey, in March 2022. But long-distance friends and family members also took part in mini-versions of the event across the United States, encompassing about 150 participants overall. Social media posts helped attract people to the cause, creating an outpouring that’s still drawing donations. “It was an overwhelming display of support,” Michele says.
The Falcones would like Hike for Mike proceeds to benefit the care team at JFK’s Brain Trauma Unit. “We hope to fund something tangible, like new equipment that can help therapists continue to give the excellent care they do,” Michele says.
As Mike continues to take strides toward a fuller recovery, Michele says he loves wearing his Hike for Mike hat and was excited to learn an event in his honor would also help others. “My dad is very proud of his family and all we’ve done together to get through this,” she says.
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