2023 Socrates Award Grants Announced

Award Recognizes the Accomplishments of Paralyzed Individuals With Lifetime Grant

Media Contact:
Christopher Brennan
Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation

CHICAGO December 5, 2023 – The Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation today announced the recipients of the 2023 Socrates Award, which provides a lifetime cash grant to individuals with paralysis caused by illness or injury that results in the partial or total loss of the use of one’s limbs with economic resources for therapy, equipment, prescriptions, and in-home care.

“These four individuals recognize that the daily pursuit of ‘a healthy mind’ and ‘a healthy body’ in the face of adversity is the true testament of one’s character,” said Chris Brennan, Chairman of The Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation.

Marine Cpl Kelsee Leinhart (Dearborn, IN)
  • Marine Cpl Kelsee Leinhart (Dearborn, IN): Marine Cpl. Kelsee Lainhart was among the service members wounded in the Kabul Airport attacks on August 26, 2021. Cpl. Lainhart was working with the withdrawal of U.S. troops and refugees in the final days of the U.S. involvement in the war in Afghanistan when the attack that killed 13 service members happened. Lainhart was left paralyzed, and recovery has taken her from Walter Reed in Washington to rehabilitation in Chicago. She continues her journey of healing back in the Hoosier State. Despite everything she has been through, the decision to join the Marines is one Cpl. Lainhart said she doesn’t regret it. Once a Marine, always a Marine.
Ivan Smith (San Diego, CA)
  • Ivan Smith (San Diego, CA): Ivan Smith, an elite tennis player from Southern California, was in a terrible car accident on April 5, 2022, while attending college in San Antonio, Texas. Ivan endured significant surgery to rebuild his spine with 16 screws, and his spinal cord was severely damaged around T.H. 7-8. There are severe long-term problems ahead, but hopefully, with divine intervention and remarkable technological and scientific advances, Ivan will someday walk again.
Clay Scherb (Winnetka, IL)
  • Clay Scherb (Winnetka, IL): On August 28, 2022, Clay Scherb, who was a senior in high school, suffered a horrific accident in which his C5 was shattered. After being rushed into surgery and spending two critical weeks in the ICU, Clay was transferred to Northwestern Hospital in Chicago for another week of enhanced care. The following 12 weeks were spent in intense rehabilitation, with a brief stint back to Northwestern Hospital for two weeks to help clear Clay’s lungs. Clay is paralyzed from the chest down and has difficulty with his core and sitting upright unassisted. Clay has worked tirelessly five days a week, six hours a day, for the past 15 months in physical therapy. He has slowly gained some functionality with his leg mobility and continues to work on developing hand dexterity. Clay’s will is indomitable, and he is determined to continue healing, gaining strength, and regaining mobility and self-sufficiency.  
J.J. O’Connor (Chicago, IL)
  • J.J. O’Connor (Chicago, IL): J.J. O’Connor sustained a C4 spinal cord injury at the age of 16 while playing hockey, forcing him to learn how to live his life as a quadriplegic. About a week after his accident, long-time hockey official Jim Smith visited him in the hospital. The men became friends, and Smith became a caregiver for O’Connor, a role that Smith still has. Over the past two decades, J.J. has significantly impacted the sport of sled hockey and made invaluable contributions to USA Hockey, held various leadership roles on the local and national levels, and is currently Director Emeritus of USA Hockey’s Disabled Section. The O’Connor Courage Trophy, named after J.J., is awarded yearly to the Tier I champion at the USA Hockey Sled Classic.  

The Socrates Award honors the Socratic creed’s ideal of mens sana in corpore sano: “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” Christopher Brennan, chairman of the Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation, created the Socrates Award during his tenure in sports media. In 2000, Brennan worked with his late father, Terry Brennan, former head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, to set up this award, which originally recognized collegiate athletes who achieved a combination of athletic and academic success.

Following Brennan’s spinal cord injury that resulted in tetraplegia—partial-to-total loss of all four limbs and torso—the award shifted to its current form.

“After experiencing a spinal cord injury, the Socrates creed took on a profound meaning for me,” says Brennan. “I am honored to award these individuals who recognize that life, like sports, is full of incredible highs and frustrating lows—and that the daily pursuit of ‘a healthy mind’ and ‘a healthy body’ in the face of adversity is a true testament of one’s character.”


The Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation The Brennan Rehabilitation Foundation is a 501c3 charitable foundation located in Lake Forest, Illinois. The Foundation is committed to helping individuals, who have suffered cervical spinal injuries causing physical and cognitive disabilities, and their families and communities, by providing financial resources to help ensure a continuum of rehabilitation resources and provide opportunities for individuals to ultimately reach optimal health and independence. Please visit www.brennanrehabfoundation.org to learn more about donation opportunities and future fundraising events.