BEDMINSTER — It was nine years ago this week that Rutgers football player Eric LeGrand sustained a severe spinal cord injury during game action.

Later this month, for the seventh year, LeGrand will be the headliner at an event for which 100% of the proceeds go toward his Team LeGrand, a nonprofit subsidiary of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, to help fight spinal cord injuries. Christopher Reeve, of course, was the "Superman" actor perhaps most responsible for raising awareness of such injuries following his catastrophic horse riding accident in 1995.

"An Evening with Eric LeGrand," on Monday, Oct. 28 at Fiddler's Elbow Country Club in Bedminster, is presented yearly by Newroads Financial Group. Funds are raised via ticket sales and a silent auction.

Partner Ron Garutti Jr. said this was at first only supposed to be a one-time benefit, similar to blood, coat, and food drives in which Newroads participates, with the original intent not to "embarrass ourselves, and have a little bit of fun."

Garutti contacted LeGrand through mutual friends, and LeGrand was receptive to the idea. The first year exceeded all expectations — a total haul of $24,000, and wide interest in reprising the event in future years.

"Every year we've outraised the year previous," Garutti said. "This year we have very high sights to set if we're going to do that again, because we raised over $60,000 last year."

Garutti said about 80 people showed up in 2013, and by last year he had to cap the gathering at 130 people. He said that's mostly due to LeGrand's generosity with his time, and that to provide attendees the opportunity to connect with this inspirational New Jerseyan (and those he has brought along to the event over the years), the evening had to remain a relatively intimate affair.

"He is not about motivating through only himself," Garutti said. "He really tries hard to give a voice to others affected by paralysis."

For more information or to offer something to be put up at the auction, visit give.reeve.org/newroads.

Patrick Lavery is Senior Producer of Morning News and Special Programming for New Jersey 101.5, and is lead reporter and substitute anchor for "New Jersey's First News." Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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