NRH held its 22nd annual Gala Victory Awards ceremony on Monday, November 17 at Washington’s Ritz-Carlton Hotel. Entitled Celebrate China, this year’s Gala was sponsored by the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China under the patronage of His Excellency, Ambassador and Mrs. Zhou Wenzhong. Charlie and Christiana Chiang Co-Chaired the event.
The 2008 awardees were both former NRH patients, whose stories are both inspiring and extraordinary. Local restauranteur Charlie Chiang and Holton-Arms School swimmer Ariel Cohen received their Victory awards from former Victory Award recipients Senator Timothy Johnson (D-SD) and Paralympic swimmer Rudy Garcia-Tolson. Johnson overcame a severe brain hemorrhage in 2006 and was recently re-elected to the U.S. Senate; Garcia-Tolson is a double leg amputee who won gold at this year’s Beijing Games.
2008 honoree Charles Chiang is one of the DC area’s best-known restauranteurs, operating 6 outlets across the region. In a February car accident, Chiang suffered a severe brain injury and trauma to his left leg. During three months of intensive therapy at NRH, Chiang increased strength in his left side and began walking again with a cane. Just months after the accident, he has returned to work part-time while continuing his outpatient therapy. "Charles’ recovery is a significant accomplishment," said Senator and former NRH patient Timothy Johnson. "A brain injury is a formidable opponent—it takes enormous patience, will, and fortitude to overcome, and Charles’ recovery demonstrates tremendous inner strength."
An energetic and engaging 16-year-old, Ariel Cohen was an accomplished swimmer on the Holton-Arms School team when she suffered a rare and debilitating pediatric stroke three years ago. Her left side was completely paralyzed, her vision was partly gone, and doctors weren’t sure she would survive. But the NRH’s pediatric rehabilitation specialists helped Ariel make a remarkable recovery. After five weeks of intensive physical, occupational and speech therapy, Ariel returned to school, competitive swimming, and playing her viola.
"With their state-of-the-art equipment and dedicated therapists, I felt more like an athlete than a rehab patient," said Ariel.
"It wasn’t like being in a hospital; my swim team came over for pizza after practice and my classmates decorated my entire room for me." According to NRH President Eckenhoff, Ariel inspired other patients and her therapists with her hard work and sunny disposition. "Her attitude was contagious," said Eckenhoff. "Her courage and determination helped those around her to succeed and recover, too."
"The best swimmers learn to work through their physical limitations and inner doubts," said Paralympian gold medalist Rudy Garcia-Tolson. "Ariel showed discipline and courage beyond her years in overcoming her injury. That fighting spirit will serve her well throughout her life, in whatever challenges she faces."
Learn more about the Victory Awards®