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NYers of the Week: Matthew Valente, Carlos Rodriguez Make Impression on Mission to Find Cure for Spinal Cord Injuries

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There are more than 200,000 Americans who live with spinal cord injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the latest New Yorkers of the Week take teacher and student mentorship to the next level by working together to raise awareness. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following report.

This is not an art class at the Petrides School on Staten Island. This canvas is helping to raise funds and awareness.

For former student Matthew Valente, it symbolizes support for a cure to spinal cord injuries.

"When you have a positive approach and you get people involved and say, 'Hey, let's do something about this,' it starts a chain reaction. People are receptive to that," Valente says. "So I saw no point in being negative and just sitting around doing nothing."

So, Valente teamed up with his former teacher, Carlos Rodriguez. Together, they started "Walk 4," an organization to raise awareness about spinal cord injuries. Valente sustained his from a golf cart accident seven years ago.

"It's inspiring a lot of people, and my goal is to help him and to work together with him to help others," Rodriguez says.

"Walk 4" launched earlier this year and has already raised nearly $20,000 for research. They donate the funds to the Spinal Cord Injury Project at Rutgers University.

"My close friend Christopher Reeve once said to me that really, the first obstacle is hope. Without hope, we can't do anything," said Wise Young, lead researcher for the Spinal Cord Injury Project at Rutgers University. "So this is what Matt is doing, Matt and Carlos. They are raising hope."

Along the way, they've caught the attention of former Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand.
He suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury during a game in 2010.

"It can happen to anybody, and that's why it's so important for everyone to be a part of it and raise awareness," LeGrand said. "Your day may come that you need somebody to help you."

That's the goal of "Walk 4": creating a community ready to help.

"It should be known that we as a group of kids or nation can make a difference," said Jamari Cortez, a student at the Petrides School.

So, for leaving an impression on the mission to find a cure for spinal cord injuries, Matthew Valente and Carlos Rodriguez are our New Yorkers of the Week.


For more information about Walk 4, visit their Facebook page at

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