Fundraising begins for Tulane safety Devon Walker

Tulane senior safety Devon Walker has already benefited from the best of wishes and the best of care as he battles back from a broken neck he sustained in a game on Saturday, but it looks like he'll also need the best of financial support. Medical care costs in the first year after a cervical spinal fracture can soar past $800,000.

Two students in Walker's class who have never met him are trying to help.

Brad Girson and Jesse Schwartz, both seniors at Tulane, have designed T-shirts with Walker's name and number on the back. They plan to sell the shirts for $20 each and donate the net proceeds to the fund started by the university dedicated to defraying the costs of Walker's care.

They are on their way. Girson and Schwartz say they have already taken more than 200 orders, and they are hoping to raise $10,000 by the weekend. Their ultimate goal, they say, is to raise more than $800,000, which will mean selling more than 50,000 shirts.

"Every time he stepped onto the field, he represented our school," says Schwartz. "We wanted to do something to unite everyone in support of him."

After watching the game, in which Walker sustained a broken neck at the end of the first half and needed CPR followed by three hours of surgery on Sunday to stabilize his spine, Girson and Schwartz spent hours scrambling to figure out a way to help. Charitable service is "in the blood of the community" in Tulane and in New Orleans, Girson says, so they figured they had to do something. When they heard about the extraordinary costs of rehabilitation, they looked at each other and almost immediately thought of a T-shirt drive. The friends had already started a small T-shirt business on campus.

The pair worked with the university to add the T-shirt drive to the official website dedicated to Walker. They hope to sit amid a sea of Walker T-shirts when the team plays next week at home against Ole Miss.

Walker is alert and responsive in the ICU at a Tulsa hospital, but his long-term prognosis is still not known. It is possible he will need some sort of financial assistance for the rest of his life. According to the National Spinal Cord Injury Statistical Center, barely more than a third of those who suffer spinal cord injuries are employed 20 years after getting hurt.

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