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Look To The Stars recently spoke to 15-year NBA veteran John Salley about his charity interests.

John Salley has an impressive resume. Not only is he the first NBA player to win four championships with three different teams, he is the host of ‘The Best Damn Sports Show Period’, has appeared in blockbuster movies including Bad Boys and Bad Boys 2, and as a vegan, strongly supports PETA. But it’s his touching encounter with Anthony Purcell and his cause, Walking with Anthony that grabbed our attention.

Walking with Anthony is a charity dedicated to raising money and awareness for Spinal Cord Injuries (SCI). Founded by Micki Purcell two years ago, Walking with Anthony was established after Micki’s son Anthony (then 22 years old) dove into the ocean into a hidden sand-bar, leaving him paralyzed from the neck down.

Micki and Anthony with John Salley
Micki and Anthony with John Salley

After two years of intensive recovery therapy at San Diego-based Project Walk, Anthony has shown miraculous recovery and can now stand with the aid of a walker and is getting better each day, an occurrence that doctors said would never happen two years ago.

Micki just put on a fundraiser event this past month to raise awareness, and basketball legend John Salley decided to jump on board to help in any way he could – acting as spokesperson for Walking with Anthony and being the master of ceremonies at April’s Fundraiser.

Look to the Stars was honored to speak with the NBA veteran and Anthony about this remarkable story.

John, how did you learn about Walk with Anthony?

A friend of mine had asked me about hosting an event for him and I was hooked after watching his video and reading about him. I don’t think anyone could not be moved by his determination.

What was it that hooked you?

He’s someone working hard at something to get back to a point – to see his spirit crushed and where he was, and how hard he is fighting, pushing for a second chance, not giving up, its inspiring.

You had met him prior to his accident?

Yes, I had met him three years earlier at my daughter’s birthday party in Malibu. He was just being a fun kid and he came over and sat next to me and said ’What’s up John’ and was joshing around with me and he left quite an impression.

What have you learned from Anthony?

Quite a bit. Perseverance and strength of character to name a few. I never thought in my life that I’d know someone like Anthony who is going through something like this, especially after meeting him, and it made me think about my own life and how it could happen to anyone really. When you get older you think about your future and you never really know.

He’s inspired you?

I think he definitely has an amazing spirit about him, he is going to be healthy again and nobody is getting in his way, especially a spinal cord injury.

And finally, if you had a theme song, what would it be?

Bob Marley, ‘Get Up, Stand Up’.

After speaking with Salley, we spoke with Anthony, a former model with an amazing and inspirational outlook on life. He describes his meeting with Salley three years ago as ‘luck’ and is determined to help ‘as many people as possible’ with spinal cord injuries.

Anthony, you left quite an impression on John Salley when you first met him several years ago at his daughter’s birthday party in Malibu. What three words would you use to describe this chance meeting?

Luck, Fate, Chance.

Since the accident, you continue to shatter the current perception that your spinal cord injury is unchangeable-that you’ll never walk again. Where are you now in the process of recovery?

I have recovered dramatically. I have made progress to the point where I can stand on a walker with very little assistance. Not only physically, but emotionally I have made leaps and bounds…and that’s very important.

How is ‘Walking With Anthony’ helping others with spinal cord injuries?

Walking With Anthony’s mission is to forever change the recovery outcome of spinal cord injury, currently perceived as unchangeable. It is very costly to recover from this injury. Luckily, my family has the necessary funds to help me seek treatment. So I wanted to raise money and help others who are not as fortunate as I am. I’m thrilled that this organization is growing at the rapid speed that it is. I want to help as many people as possible, and I am excited to do that.

It must be difficult to focus on your own well-being while helping others heal from similar injuries without draining yourself emotionally. Have you been able to draw strength from others in similar situations and/or all your friends and family posting videos on your site?

Seeing others going through some of the same things that I am going through inspires me. When I am down-in-the-dumps and having a bad day I think about them and how this happened for a reason, and the reason is for me to draw strength from that and help them.

Speaking of drawing strength, your parents are amazing. How has it been working with your mother, Micki? Did you know she was Wonder Woman before your accident?

My mother is my rock. Working with her has also inspired me, due to the simple fact that she has never given up on me. She has always been wonder woman, even prior to my accident. A true inspiration. I’m not the hero here, she is.

Tell us a little bit about your first annual “Movement for Change” red carpet fundraiser, how was the event and explain what the ‘Movement for Change’ is all about? And what was it like having Salley and Jerry West there supporting you?

‘Movement for Change’ turned out amazing. It was great to see all my friends and family from around the country gather for such a great cause. ‘Movement for Change’ simply means our foundation is trying to change the way doctors perceive spinal cord injury recovery. Having John and Jerry there was awesome. Growing up as a big NBA fan, it meant a lot for them to give back.

Do you have any statistics regarding the number of people with SCI’s that might ‘recover’ with proper rehab?

There are 13,000 SCI injuries a year. And there are 1.5 million people that are in wheelchairs because of this injury. Very many with rehab can get stronger, healthier and more independent.

Tell us a little bit about Legends Fight Night?

Walking With Anthony was chosen to be one of the beneficiaries for Legends Fight Night (at Soldier Stadium in Chicago). It was a great way to get our name out there and raise money for WWA. I had an awesome time!

Do you think more celebrities should step-up and help others?

Absolutely! The more the merrier. Having a celebrity by your side really brings recognition and helps build your foundation in a positive way.

Do you surf? There are numerous organizations that harness the healing power of the ocean, it’s amazing. I was just curious – as I’m sure you’ve heard of Life Rolls On, recently absorbed by the Chris/Dana Reeve Foundation?

No. Being from South Florida you would think that I would, but I just never got the hang of it! I have heard of Life Rolls On and how it is a great cause.

And if you had a theme song, what would it be?

Corey Smith – If I could do it again.

And finally, please tell us you have plans to get back into modeling?

You might catch me in a magazine or two ;)

Look to the Stars and this writer in particular would like to thank John Salley for his time and Anthony and Micki Purcell for ‘walking the walk’.

Please visit Walking With Anthony for more information.

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