“This Evening Creates Hope”

Back to overview

The first snowflakes are falling at an altitude of 1,520 metres. The flakes dance in the icy wind and transform Ski Amadé in Flachau into a frosty winter landscape. Amidst this idyll lies the Lisa Alm, cosy and illuminated by a warm purple glow. Could a setting be more perfect?
On Saturday, more than a hundred people from the worlds of sports, culture, and business accepted our invitation to spend some quality time with us and raise funds for spinal cord research.

The evening began with Anita Gerhardter welcoming the guests and stressing once again how important the promotion of research in this field is. Her point was emphasised by the opening speech held by our colleague Wolfgang Illek. The audience remained perfectly quiet while he recalled the terrible accident he suffered in 2004. He talked about how he - an athletic, young man in his prime - woke up in the ICU and realised he could merely move his head. He talked about his rehabilitation process and explained that his body is now paralysed from the 5th cervical vertebra downwards.

He stressed how he didn’t want his story to be depressing, but how he wished to give the guests an idea of how much he is hoping for a cure - especially as his fiancé is expecting their first child. “Naturally, I often wonder how it would feel to be able to pick up a baby, to show it the world, and - even if it’s still a little early - to teach it how to ride a bicycle.” At this point, the eyes of Lena, his fiancé, welled up with tears.

All for Science
100% of the donations collected at the Summit Meeting will be invested directly in spinal cord research. Host Tom Walek emphasised this once more while explaining the iPad auction. The auction consisted of experiences that are usually unobtainable in “the real world”. Mountaineering legend Reinhold Messner even promoted a hike in the South Tyrolean Dolomites in person. The bids started rolling in thick and fast.

Another highlight of the evening was a speech by Grégoire Courtine, a researcher at the Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland. He explained how he combines electrical spinal cord stimulation with robot-assisted locomotion training on patients with chronic incomplete spinal cord injuries.

The result of the fundraising event was announced shortly before midnight. Attendance fees, raffle tickets, and the auction raised 240,500 Euros - a truly incredible sum for one evening! We are overwhelmed and would like to take this opportunity to - once again - thank you all from the bottom of our hearts.