When Will Coffman first entered Cardinal Hill Rehabilitation Hospital, he was 16. He had sustained a spinal cord injury in a near-fatal car accident in which he was thrown through the back window on the last day of school before summer break.
Now 29, Coffman returns to the hospital often, trying to give back some of what the support staff members gave him.
"They taught me how to live my life again," said Coffman, who hasn't allowed his paralysis to hold him back. He is the director of Kentucky's Washington Office of the Governor and is a faithful supporter of Cardinal Hill.
In fact, in September he started the Cardinal Hill Junior Board, a group of 14 young professionals who are dedicated to helping the hospital continue its work.
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"A lot of people my age are passionate about giving back to the community, but they didn't have a way to do that," Coffman said. "This is a way for young professionals to give back."
For their first project, the young professionals have chosen to raise $1 million to build a heated therapeutic pool as a part of the 100-bed expansion that is under way at the hospital.
The current pool is almost square, Coffman said, and not very big or conducive to swimming laps.
"I've always been passionate about the pool," he said. "It keeps people active."
JoAnne Burris, volunteer coordinator at the hospital, said the new pool will be state-of-the-art so patients with range-of-motion issues can have a comfortable place to swim and exercise. The pool also will have a locker room, and hospital officials envision it will be used not only for patients, she said, but for members of the community for a small fee. They would need only a doctor's statement, she said.
That interaction with the community is what Coffman hopes the Junior Board will foster.
"I would like to have the hospital be a place where, after you leave, you can come back and be a part of it again," Coffman said.
To kick off the effort to fund the pool, the Junior Board has settled on the Junebug Music Festival, which it hopes will become an annual affair. The inaugural festival will be June 20 at Buster's Billiards & Backroom. Among those slated to perform are Free Energy, The Pass, Coralee and the Townies, Matt Duncan, Englishman, Nate Jones, and Brother Barrett and the Barrows.
Cardinal Hill is a non-profit organization that helps people with disabilities reach their independence potential. In addition to inpatient care for rehabilitation needs, there are outpatient programs and child care, adult day and home health care, and recreational programs.
"When he got hurt," said Dr. Wes Coffman of his son, Will, "a lot of friends asked what they could do for us. We didn't need a lot of things, but Cardinal Hill always does."
He asked friends to donate to Cardinal Hill along with his family. Will joined in when he became able and hasn't stopped since.
"Will felt very fortunate to have Cardinal Hill here," Wes Coffman said.
The therapeutic pool is only the first step in a long alliance between the Junior Board and the hospital, Will Coffman said.
"Right now we are focused on the pool," he said. "But the big picture is I'd like to expose Cardinal Hill to a whole different group of people."