Passing the torch
After the death of its founder, The Wayman Tisdale Foundation continues its work to assist individuals with cancer and those in need of a prosthetic device.
Regina Tisdale in her home office, which is full of her late husband, Wayman's, awards, family photos and other keepsakes.
There’s nothing particularly unusual about a well-known basketball player/bass guitarist creating a foundation to benefit young athletes and musicians.
But when Wayman Tisdale, Tulsa’s most celebrated NBA star and smooth jazz guitarist, had a leg amputated following a cancer diagnosis, the goals of his organization changed. And when the unspeakable happened — Tisdale died suddenly in 2009 — the foundation went through a rebirth.
Today’s Wayman Tisdale Foundation is committed to “making a difference in the lives of individuals with cancer as well as amputees,” according to the organization’s website. At a Jan. 20 event, the foundation will announce its first recipient of a prosthetic device.
“Before he died, Wayman handpicked the board of directors,” says Regina Tisdale, his widow and the current force behind the group. “His death intensified our resolve. They all know what Wayman wanted, and now it’s up to us to deliver.”
The first order of business was to enlist Scott Sabolich, owner of Scott Sabolich Prosthetics & Research in Oklahoma City, to handle the selection process. Sabolich’s firm is the largest prosthetic facility in the state and the largest single-site store in the country.
“We’re the Mayo Clinic of prosthetics, serving people from all over the country,” Sabolich says.
Wayman Tisdale had been a patient and customer.
Tisdale’s “C-leg” was more of a computer (hence the “C”) wonder than artificial leg, featuring Bluetooth technology with a chip to prevent stumbling. The cost: in excess of Tisdale’s $50,000 insurance coverage. Sabolich says the average prosthetic costs between $5,000 and $10,000 and lasts two to five years.
“A partial foot can cost $1,200, while a robotic arm can run $110,000,” he says.
Sabolich has agreed to provide a prosthetic at 50 percent below cost to the foundation, so every dollar donated counts as two. When first asked to assist the Wayman Tisdale Foundation board with identifying its first recipient, he produced a list of 20 patients within moments.
The award will go to an Oklahoman with the greatest need who couldn’t otherwise pay for a prosthetic device. There will be no formal nomination or application process. This first winner will have no knowledge of being considered but will receive the surprise of a lifetime.
Regina Tisdale says the foundation continues to plan events and solicit donors to raise money, and ultimately aims to present quarterly awards.
“It’s so important to me, as his wife, to fulfill his legacy, to make his dreams and desires come true,” she says. “I’m more determined than ever that the things he wanted will take place.”
“Together we can help change the world,” is the quote greeting visitors to the Wayman Tisdale Foundation website. In that spirit, individuals can participate by:
- Donating to The Wayman Tisdale Foundation, c/o Paul Samuels, Morgan Stanley, 2200 S. Utica Place, Suite 500, Tulsa, OK 74114. For more information, call 918-582-3211 or 800-877-8651.Joining the movement at www.waymantisdale.org.
- Recruiting others who loved, enjoyed and respected WaymanTisdale to join the group.
- Writing on the foundation’s Facebook wall; adding to the discussion board; and posting pictures, links and videos.
- Using the Facebook “Share” feature to spread information about this group.