February 23, 2005
Methodist's patient care fund, sports programs and research division to benefit from $114,000 donation from Ameristar Casino Vicksburg
By Jim Albritton
Health and Research News Service
JACKSON, Miss.—Ameristar Casino Vicksburg General Manager Ray Neilsen today joined with the company’s employees to donate more than $114,000 to Methodist Rehabilitation Center. The money will be used to help fund the Jackson hospital’s patient care fund, sports programs for the physically challenged and its research program.
Employees at Ameristar Casino Vicksburg donated $21,479.44 to the Jackson hospital through the Ameristar Cares Workplace Giving Campaign. Their contribution was matched dollar-for-dollar by both the company and by the Craig H. Neilsen Foundation, bringing the joint donation to $64,438.32.
The Foundation, created by its namesake, Ameristar’s chairman and CEO, Craig H. Neilsen, added to that total by donating an additional $50,000 that is earmarked to help fund ongoing spinal cord injury research at Methodist.
"My father has a deep personal commitment—and it is the mission of his foundation—to support organizations like Methodist Rehab as they provide comprehensive and innovative programs that make a profound difference in their patients' lives," said Ray Neilsen. “I am very pleased that Ameristar and the Foundation were able to match our team members' contributions to Methodist Rehabilitation Center and that the Foundation was able to provide an additional $50,000 research grant.”
Methodist is a 124-bed, non-profit hospital that provides rehabilitation programs for people with spinal cord and brain injuries, stroke and other neurological and orthopedic disorders and treats patients from all of Mississippi’s 82 counties and from other states.
Methodist President and CEO Mark A. Adams said the foundation grant will advance the important research being conducted by the hospital’s Center for Neuroscience and Neurological Recovery (CNNR). “Our researchers are excited about this donation because it will help fund their ongoing efforts to more quickly translate emerging discoveries into clinical practice,” Adams said.
CNNR director Dr. Dobrivoje Stokic said a portion of the grant will be used to purchase an Ergys 2 Rehabilitation System, which is a type of stationary bike that can be used by people with little or no voluntary leg movement.
“The system’s computer generates low-level electrical pulses that stimulate leg muscles in a coordinated manner, allowing active pedaling,” Stokic said. “This can help increase muscle mass, strength and endurance, relax muscle spasms and improve circulation and range of motion. It also provides a means to investigate the link between certain kinds of stimulation and movement.”
Adams said the generous donation from Ameristar employees will support the hospital’s patient care fund and its therapeutic recreation program.
“Both of these programs greatly affect the quality of life experienced by the people we help here at Methodist,” Adams said. “The patient care fund is a resource for people who can’t afford critical equipment such as wheelchairs, and the therapeutic recreation program provides an opportunity for participants to engage in a variety of athletic activities.”
Methodist therapeutic recreation director Ginny Boydston has already introduced disabled Mississippians to sled hockey, wheelchair rugby, hand cycling, water skiing and snow skiing. In addition to providing additional funding for these sports, she will use a portion of the Ameristar donation to fund new activities including golf and fencing.
“One of the goals of therapeutic recreation is to show people they can still maintain an active lifestyle after a disabling injury,” she said. “We think a good way to do that is to provide activities that appeal to a diverse audience. Last year we tried ballet, and we’re getting ready to do it again.”
All the plans come as welcome news to Ameristar team member Derek Adams because he knows on a deeply personal level how critical such services can be.
“My younger brother broke his neck last March in a diving accident in Tampa, and is currently paralyzed from the chest down,” explained Adams, marketing database manager for Ameristar Casino in Vicksburg.
“The months following his accident have opened my eyes to the many challenges faced by people with such life-changing disabilities, and to the incredible importance organizations like Methodist Rehab play in helping people endure these challenges. I was grateful to find out that I could make Methodist Rehab my charity of choice, and even more thrilled when I learned that Ameristar CEO Craig Neilsen was going to match contributions.”
The Ameristar Cares charitable giving program encompasses direct financial donations, workplace giving and employee volunteerism. In 2004, the Workplace Giving campaign alone raised more than $1.5 million for worthy charities in the cities that are home to an Ameristar property—Council Bluffs, Iowa, Black Hawk, Colorado, St. Charles and Kansas City, Missouri, and Jackpot and Las Vegas, Nevada. Ameristar Cares donated an additional $1.2 million to 1,000 charities, primarily those that focus on education with an emphasis on adult literacy, social service agencies—especially those that assist seniors, health-related nonprofits, career and economic development and research and support for responsible gaming.
Ameristar Casino Vicksburg General Manager Ray Neilsen presents a $114,438.32 check to athletes who participate in Methodist Rehabilitation Center's sports therapy programs as Methodist and Ameristar employees look on.