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April 23, 2014

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TEDDY PENDERGRASS: Still Living and Still Giving

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By Karu F. Daniels, AOL Black Voices

(-r) Legendary soul crooner then and now.

March 18 marks the 25th anniversary since legendary R&B crooner Teddy Pendergrass suffered a near fatal car accident, which changed his life dramatically.

Yesterday, the beloved Philadelphia native announced that his recently formed Teddy Pendergrass Alliance (TPA) -- a non profit organization which helps people with spinal chord industries build their lives -- will present a star-studded extravaganza to raise funds to further their philanthropic efforts.

"The first question I had after the accident was, 'How am I gonna support my family?" Pendergrass explained to The BV Newswire last night. "From personal experience, I discovered that resources weren't available which offered avenues for me to sustain myself independently."

"People with SCI are people, not conditions or diseases," he continued. "We all have challenges and The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance was created to offer resources for people to continue their lives independently after a spinal cord injury."

Hosted by supersized superstar Mo'Nique, the gala will be titled 'Teddy 25 -- A Celebration of Life, Hope and Possibilities' and will be held June 10 at Philadelphia's Kimmel Center.

Patti La Belle, Ruben Studdard and Stephanie Mills are among the performers confirmed along with Pendergrass, himself, who will premiere a new song, written specifically for the black tie gala.

Whitney Houston, who collaborated with Pendergrass early in her career, will have a special honor paid to her.

"[We] are honoring everyone who has been involved in significant ways since my accident in 1982," he explained. "Whitney's first record was a duet we did together called 'Hold Me In Your Arms,' recorded in 1983 and released in 1984."

Arsenio Hall, Regis Philbin, Ashford & Simpson, media maven Cathy Hughes, radio titan Mark P. May, real estate magnate and reality television personality Donald Trump, music industry executives Daniel Markus, Shep Gordon, Bob Krasnow and veteran music publicist Lisa Barbaris -- all friends of Pendergrass whom he wants to thank for their friendship and assistance through the years -- will also be honored.

Invited celebrity guests include Stevie Wonder, Alicia Keys, Eddie LeVert, Kindred, Sheryl Lee Ralph, Jill Scott, Musiq, Vivian Green, Jaheim, and Usher, confirmed a publicist for the festivities.

For years, Pendergrass has been an outspoken advocate for survivors of SCI, dedicating his time and talent, showing by example that there is life for people disabled by spinal cord injuries. "Fortunately I am blessed to be able to continue to work and be productive as a performer," he explained.

After 19 years away from the stage, he returned in May of 2001 to a sold-out tour.

"I was on top of the world and felt utterly invincible, until one tragic evening in March 1982; an automobile accident caused my life to change drastically. I became one of over 250,000 Americans living with a spinal cord injury (SCI)," he shared. "From personal experience I recognize a strong need for a coordinated outreach to individuals with SCI that will encourage them to reach their maximum potential and that's the mission of The Teddy Pendergrass Alliance. It is important that those of us with SCI continue to LIVE and are given the right to LIVE as individuals in the way that we choose and that society recognizes that people with SCI are people, not conditions or diseases. We all have challenges; a disability does not mean inability," he concluded.

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