The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital – Where Getting Better Gets Even Better


Human beings are composite creatures made up of much more than atoms and molecules configured into a particular shape. The staff at Burke know that recovery is about a lot more than making patients' bodies work better. Their success lies in large part in addressing the emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of patients' recovery.

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Every year in this country, far too many people suffer some form of traumatic (and often debilitating) injury or medical event. Consider these startling annual statistics . . .

These statistics could be more than a little depressing, especially for the people involved, but there is a bright spot in all this. And that is The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital.

The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital – A Place of Hope and Recovery

The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital opened in 1915 and has "been a leader in medical rehabilitation for more than one hundred years." This remarkable hospital, located in White Plains, New York, is accredited by both the Joint Commission and the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities – "the gold standards for acute care rehabilitation hospitals in the United States today." In addition, the hospital has been "academically affiliated with the prestigious Albert Einstein College of Medicine" for the past few years.

That sounds pretty impressive, but what really goes on at The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital?


Attracting and welcoming patients from across the country and around the world, "Burke provides inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation for a broad range of neurological, musculoskeletal, cardiac, and pulmonary disabilities caused by disease or injury." Most often, patients at Burke have been transferred from acute-care hospitals after stabilization of their conditions. Patients have typically experienced one (or more) of the following:

  • Stroke

  • Spinal cord injury

  • Brain injury

  • Amputation

  • Complicated Fracture

  • Arthritis

  • Cardiac/pulmonary disease

  • Neurological disorders

Patients at Burke then participate in intensive, custom-tailored programs involving physical, occupational, and speech therapy. This "personalized care is the result of expert, interdisciplinary teams, led by a remarkable range of medical specialists" – including "neurologists, physiatrists, internists, rheumatologists, pulmonologists, and neurophysiologists. The intensive therapy regimens involve a minimum of 15 hours of physical, occupational, and speech therapy every week. And because Burke conducts clinical research, patients also have the opportunity to participate in "cutting edge medical research for ongoing studies."

But Burke does a lot more than just treat the body . . .

"Recreational therapy, chaplain visits, patient greenhouse activities and family support groups are also available. These resources explain Burke's national reputation for excellence and its consistent success helping patients achieve their maximum recovery."

Human beings are composite creatures made up of much more than atoms and molecules configured into a particular shape. The staff at Burke know that recovery is about a lot more than making patients' bodies work better. Their success lies in large part in addressing the emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of patients' recovery.

And a big part of that is just making sure patients have ample opportunity to have active fun.

Treating the Whole Person Through Athletic Fun

A great example of how Burke treats the whole person is the annual big blow-out of athletic events, particularly the Wheelchair Games. It's an event that includes participants ranging in age from five to 70, competing in everything from javelin throwing to wheelchair slalom races to ping pong. And besides building their confidence by the simple act of competing in these events, participates all get a plaque and a goody bag.

Burke's campus covers 60 acres. Volunteers set up a huge tent in the parking lot where lunch is served for the event. Also, there is

an 1/8-mile track where the track events take place from about 1:30 to 4:00 or 5:00 pm – after, of course, the lunch served under the big top. And in Burke's Quadrangle are six pits for events like javelin, discus, and softball throws. There's also ping pong in the gym and a wheelchair athletic slalom in the parking lot.

But the athletes here aren't competing against one another – the sole purpose is to build confidence to help them in their rehabilitation and recovery. For example, everyone gets a trophy, and all participants in the basketball free-throw competition receive a medal. And why not? They are all, after all, winners just by virtue of getting out there and competing.

One of the big hits at this big event is the goody bags every participant receives. And all this is a 100% volunteer effort with 90% of everything donated. So, of course, donations are always welcome.

Dona Rumney – A Driving Force at Burke

Dona Rumney – who graciously granted us an interview – is definitely a driving force behind the games and goody bags at The Burke Rehabilitation Hospital. (She was, however, quick to point out that, really, it is a collaborative effort involving and among the committee, volunteers, athletes, and Burke administration.) 

Dona is married, the mother of a 32-year-old daughter, and loves music. She has been in purchasing for 40 years and has served in this capacity at Burke for the past 27 years. And this experience has equipped her well for her pivotal role in Burke's athletic games.

Dona started out on the Wheelchair Games committee 25 years ago and soon became convinced that she could do a better job of

getting donations, especially swag for the goody bags. Because Burke is a not-for-profit entity, it took her a while to get the go-ahead for fundraising – but she finally did.

Now Dona solicits – and receives – donations from individuals and businesses throughout the tri-state area and beyond. Her efforts, for example, have brought in donations of bobblehead dolls from the New York Mets and cough drops from Ricola. Other donations include water bottles, bandanas, wrist bands, and toothbrushes. Her success at getting donations has been pretty impressive.

Dona also raises funds with chance raffles and a silent auction, depending on the dollar amount involved. The raffles include hundreds of dollars worth of toys, and the prizes for the silent auction have included restaurant gift cards, ski lift tickets, winery tours, helicopter rides, comedy club tickets, and a time-share vacation week at Breckenridge, CO.

Exemplifying the spirit of Burke, Dona does a lot more than just solicit donations and raise funds. She has, for example, been a coach at the games for the past 10 years. And her daughter does face painting. Pretty impressive, really.

The Goody-Bag Bandanas

As Dona said several times, because people and businesses who donate tend to fall away after a while, making it harder every year, "Google is my friend." And that's exactly where she went when she needed to find bandanas for the goody bags.

Dona went online, found Wholesale For Everyone, liked what she saw, and now Wholesale For Everyone has been donating bandanas for several years. And the kids love them. In fact, Dona says, they often take the bandana out first thing to wear on their heads.

According to Dona, Wholesale For Everyone is " a really great supporter of Burke's Wheelchair Games." She says the quality of the bandanas is great. She also likes how the bandanas come already folded in half so that she only has to fold them one more time before putting them into the goody bags.

Get Involved in a Worthy Cause

This year's Wheelchair Games (and other athletic events) will be held on Saturday, September 21. Several radio stations from around the area will be there to cover the day's events and to give these brave participants the recognition they deserve. In addition, everyone who donates is acknowledged in the program.

If you live in the tri-state area, why not donate or get involved to help these people, mostly kids, overcome their challenges?


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