After Illinois' 41-20 victory over Indiana last Saturday, former Illini Matt Isenberg and his family celebrated a mammoth win in his ongoing rehabilitation and recovery from multiple brain hemorrhages that left him with Wernicke's Aphasia.
Matt's friends and family staged an impressive fundraiser at Joe's Bar on Weed Street, which included a game-watch party of the Illini's win over the Hoosiers, and the event raised over $100,000, bringing the total funds raised over seven weeks to $200,000 gross.
Among those donating were former Illini and current Houston Texans kicker Neil Rackers, who submitted a winning bid of $25,000 to secure a cameo for a family member on the NBC show "Chuck," which features former Illinois tight end Ryan McPartlin. In addition, a former Big Ten student-athlete, who did not attend Illinois, donated $15,000, with $5,000 earmarked to offset the costs of holding the fundraiser and $10,000 for his ongoing costs.
A crowd of 500 paid attendees showed their support for Matt and his wife, Megan, and the event's organizers remarked that they received a number of emails from the citizens of Riverside, the Isenbergs' hometown, saying that they were touched by the story despite not knowing Matt and Megan, and want to help.
Out of the $200,000 that has been raised to this point, $110,000 has been allocated to the NeuroRestorative Center for Matt's next six months of care and rehabilitation. The rest will be used to provide for living expenses as well as begin the savings for the eventual home care in the event that it becomes necessary. The estimate for Matt's in-home care would be $78,000 for the first year, so the remaining $90,000 will be used quickly.
Mark Day, one of the lead organizers of the event, shared a story of a call he received Sunday night in an email to his mailing list. He said his caller ID showed "Matt Isenberg cell" and Mark answered it, not knowing what to expect. But Mark heard Matt on the other end, as he offered a choked-up, slow, purposeful "I call thank you..." for all Mark and others had done for him.
The Matt Isenberg Fund will continue to accept donations and the Friends and Teammates of Matt and Megan will closely monitor the reports they get from the doctors in Carbondale to best adjust their action plan. Their website is here, and donations can be made on that site.