A half dozen former professional football players gathered in Cocoa Beach Friday night to help raise money and awareness for a rare and little known neuroimmunologic disease called transverse myelitis.
About a hundred people attended the fundraising dinner and silent auction held at the Double Tree Inn, where former NFL defensive lineman Ellis Johnson and running back Sammie Smith helped auction off a variety of sports memorabilia. Former Miami Dolphin and Florida Gator offensive lineman Cal Dixon even bid, and won, a small chihuahua that was one of several animals sold at the event..
The proceeds went to benefit the Transverse Myelitis Association, which helps fund research and treatments for the disease. Four years ago, transverse myelitis unexpectedly partially paralyzed 13-year-old Sarah Robbins of Merritt Island, and she’s been relegated to a wheelchair ever since.
“I had no idea how to care for a child in a wheelchair” said her mother, local attorney Tina Robbins. “But with the help of friends and family, you learn. And you keep learning each and every day.”
Transverse myelitis can cause one’s own cells to attack the spinal cord, potentially causing paralyzation. TMA also helps educate the public about the rare disease, as well as support families like the Robbins.