Pastor: Insurance law should be ‘Rocky’ Clark’s legacy
BY SUSAN DEMAR LAFFERTY firstname.lastname@example.org January 6, 2012 9:30PM
Robbins Village Trustee Shantiel Simon (right) and pastor Anthony Williams call on Gov. Pat Quinn and the Illinois State Legislature to pass House Bill 603 to protect present and future high school athletes in the event of catastrophic injuries during a press conference at Good Shepherd Evangelical Lutheran Church in Robbins, Illinois, Friday, January, 6, 2012. They want it to be called "The Rocky Clark Legislation." | Joseph P. Meier~Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 10, 2012 8:36AM
A law that would provide lifetime health insurance coverage for high school students who suffer catastrophic injuries while playing a sport for their school will be Rocky Clark’s legacy if his pastor has his way.
One day after the death of Clark, the former Eisenhower High School student who was paralyzed from the neck down after a football injury in 2000, the Rev. Anthony Williams on Friday urged state legislators to pass House Bill 603 “to make sure no high school student-athlete goes through what Rocky went through.”
The bill would require school districts to provide catastrophic health insurance coverage with no annual or lifetime maximum benefits for high school students who suffer an injury that results in medical expenses of $50,000 or more while participating in a school-related athletic activity.
Clark, 27, of Robbins, died Thursday after spending the past 11 years of his life as a quadriplegic. His insurance ran out less than a year and a half ago, lowering the quality of his medical care and leaving his family in dire financial straits.
Clark’s character throughout his ordeal inspired many, and because of that, plans for funeral services have not been finalized. A service tentatively has been scheduled for Jan. 14 — just days before his 28th birthday — but family had not decided on a location because hundreds are expected to attend.
At a news conference Friday at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Robbins, Williams and Robbins Village Trustee Shantiel Simon urged support for what Williams wants to call the “Rocky Clark Bill.”
State Rep. William Davis (D-East Hazel Crest) in October added the insurance measure to a bill about teacher certification and became HB 603’s chief sponsor.
But Clark himself had called on legislators to provide such health care at the national level long before that.
Coverage for Clark from a $5 million insurance policy from Community High School District 218 ran out in August 2010. His mother quit her job to care for him, creating a financial burden on his family, Williams said.
“Rocky gave us this message about what has to be done,” said Simon, who plans to take a group of athletes to Springfield to urge support of the bill, which has not cleared the house.
Minnesota is the only state that requires such insurance, Williams said. The Minnesota State High School League provides catastrophic insurance for students in grades 7 to 12 who practice, participate in or travel to athletic and fine arts competitions. Those suffering a permanent total disability are paid $1,500 per month for life from age 18, and $1,000 per month for a partial disability.
“Only a minority of students have catastrophic injuries, but when it happens, they need to be covered for life,” Williams said. “If we can send someone to the moon, we can work out insurance for athletes.”
Davis could not be reached for comment.
Clark suffered a spinal cord injury when he was tackled in a high school football game Sept. 5, 2000. He had around-the-clock care until his insurance policy ended, at which time he said he felt he was being punished for living too long after becoming a quadriplegic.
A family member said Clark died of complications related to his lungs and kidneys.
“His body gave up, but his spirit didn’t,” Williams said.
Donations still can be made to the Rasul (Rocky) Clark Benefit Fund, First Midwest Bank, 3737 W. 147th St., Midlothian, IL 60445.