Walking with Anthony to honor local Springfield teen at annual fundraising event

The nonprofit, which focuses on helping those with spinal cord injuries, will host its annual golf tournament in Fairfax this September.

Anthony and Micki Purcell (Photo courtesy of Walking with Anthony)

On Feb. 6, 2010, Anthony Purcell did what anyone on vacation in Miami Beach does: He jumped in the water. Usually a typical, safe activity, this time the dive resulted in tragedy. Anthony misjudged the depth of the water and broke his neck, bruising vertebrae in his spine, ultimately becoming paralyzed.

“I knew nothing about spinal cord injuries,” says Micki Purcell, Anthony’s mother and the founder of nonprofit Walking with Anthony. “My son, Anthony, broke his neck and 20 days after the accident, in the hospital, they tapped me on the shoulder and said it was our last day—insurance only covers 20 days, on average.”

Stunned by the sudden news that insurance would not cover further treatment, Micki found a facility in California where Anthony could continue rehabilitation. “We were lucky we had the funds to keep him there,” Micki says. “We found this great facility and he got in there, and now he has his life back.”

Many spinal cord injury patients are not as lucky, which is why Micki decided to launch Walking with Anthony, a nonprofit focused on bringing awareness and funding to the 10,000-plus people who suffer from spinal cord injuries annually in the United States.

“We help as many people as we can,” Micki says. “It’s $100,000 or more a year just to help one person get the rehab. Then they need their house redone; they need equipment; they need mental health support.”

To raise the necessary funds, Walking with Anthony hosts multiple events each year, with all funds going toward patients. Locally, the organization is hosting its seventh annual Charity Celebrity Golf Tournament & Dinner with Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation on Monday, Sept. 30 at the Country Club of Fairfax. At the event, local Springfield resident Marccelo Alvarez, 14 years old, will be honored.

“We always honor someone at the event,” says Micki, “and this year we’re honoring Marccelo, who is the cutest little boy.”

Marccelo had his first spinal surgery at 13 months old after being diagnosed with cerebral palsy, spinal stenosis and low muscle tone, and has continued to struggle with his spinal cord health throughout his life. 

“We were at our previous rehabilitation center back in February of this year, and that’s where I was introduced to Micki and Walking with Anthony,” says Guissela Alvarez, Marccelo’s mother. “I owe that woman my life. She’s my family now.”

As the backbone of the organization, Micki is known for staying in contact with families that contact her about their loved ones with spinal cord injuries. “Even when we can’t help them financially, I do the best I can to help them with everything else,” Micki says. “I can mentor. I can tell them what to do, where to go. And just to have someone to talk to who understands helps.”

The golf tournament and dinner will also honor Chris Norton, a motivational speaker and spinal cord injury advocate. And, attendees of the fundraiser can expect “an event on every hole” of the golf course, according to Micki. “We have first-class, sit-down steak dinners, we have rolled cigars, bloody mary bars. It’s just unbelievable.” There will also be live entertainment, a silent auction, speeches and an awards ceremony at the event’s dinner.

Golfers also have the option to select playing with a retired Washington Redskin during the tournament when they register for the event.

For more information, visit walkingwithanthony.org. // Country Club of Fairfax: 5110 Ox Road, Fairfax; $150 for dinner only, $500 individual golfer, $1,800 foursome, $2,500 foursome with a Washington Redskin

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