Greg Rooker, co-founder of The Jason Foundation and of Brain Injury Services of SWVA, was presented “The Emily Couric Award” on April 21, 2007 during the sixth annual Transcending Brain Injury Conference for Southwest Virginia held in Roanoke. Presenter Dr. Bill Wellborn, past recipient, read excerpts from several nominations which Mr. Rooker received.
Dr. Wellborn noted that the growth in awareness of brain injury, and the services that have been established in Southwest Virginia in the past 8 years would not be where it is today were it not for Greg Rooker. Beginning with the news articles covering the injury of his son, Jason, awareness of brain injury grew across the Commonwealth. During these years at least 40 news articles have appeared in at least 19 newspapers in the state.
Before his retirement, Mr. Rooker’s 30-year career as a newspaper publisher and owner brought him statewide recognition and acclaim as a positive force in Virginia community journalism, and provided a large network of friends and associates in the Virginia Press Association – of which he had served as President. These friends and associates carried the stories of his son’s brain injury, of the progress he made, and of his death at the age of 11.
Shortly after this, Mr. Rooker changed the focus of his work to volunteering more than 30 hours a week to begin establishing the services missing in this area of the state which his son would have needed, and of which other survivors of brain injury and their families were still in need. He stated he believes he is called to serve others through this work, and feels it is the most important work he will have done in his life.
He has spent much time helping to develop the business organization of Brain Injury Services of SWVA, and served as President of its Board of Trustees for the first five years. He spent countless hours traveling the roads to educate Southwest Virginia’s legislators about the critical needs in this area of the Commonwealth. He has presented before committees and commissions. His network of former political contacts have facilitated meetings to promote brain injury awareness and the need for state funding of services with key political leaders, including the Attorney General, the Lt. Governor, and Governor Warner during the past administration, and with the present Governor Tim Kaine. His association with Radford University through the years has facilitated many forms of collaboration to benefit the brain injury community, some of which include the conference itself, the New River Valley Support Group, and various services provided to survivors through RU’s Waldron College of Health and Human Services. He has used his newspapering expertise to promote the first years of this conference, and other significant brain injury events.
Besides giving of his time, Greg has given generously financially, both personally and through The Jason Foundation, to insure that Brain Injury Services of SWVA would be established; to assisting in re-establishing the George Washington University Master’s Degree Program in Special Education / Acquired Brain Injury – whose graduates may serve as resources for children and their families within school systems; to establish The Jason Foundation Rehabilitation Programs Endowment at Radford University; the Jason Foundation Master’s Degree Program in Speech Language Pathology / ABI at Longwood University; and endow the Jason Rooker Memorial Music Therapy Scholarship Program at RU – whose graduates are serving people with brain injury and other disabilities.
Dr. Wellborn shared that wherever Greg Rooker travels, the question, “What are you doing since you retired?” is always an intro to educating others about brain injury. And he never passes that opportunity.
The annual award was established in 2002 to honor the memory of state senator Emily Couric, who was instrumental in gaining approval for the Commonwealth Neurotrauma Initiative. The initiative provided for significant financial resources to be placed in a special trust for programs and research for traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries. Nominees are selected from within the Commonwealth of Virginia with particular attention given to those candidates from Southwest Virginia who have made unique contributions through their advocacy, leadership, commitment and service on the behalf of brain injury survivors.