“Persistence--we do not give up,” is how Maggie Goldberg, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation(CDRF) described what their organization stands for, and how far they’ve come since their inception almost 30 years ago.
The Reeve Foundation started in 1982 when Henry Stifel injured his spinal cord and his father reached out to friends and family for help. The foundation was a community response to the crisis and now in 2011, it has grown into a national movement. “Christopher Reeve’s injury in 1995 changed the field forever and it was his vision, his passion, brilliance and creativity that made this one of the most promising fields in research,” said Goldberg.
It wasn’t realized at the time, but their organization, by creating hope where there was none would become the birth of a movement. While many people look to the late Christopher Reeve as the face of this ever growing organization, most do not get the chance to see the woman behind the man, and the vast contributions his late wife, Dana Reeve has bestowed upon the foundation.
“Dana was universally known as a model for care giving, but her real legacy is the creation of our Quality of Life program, which not only includes a grants program that has awarded over $14 million to organizations across the globe that help people living with paralysis in the here and now; but also includes our Paralysis Resource Center,” said Goldberg.
The Paralysis Resource Center has reached out to tens of thousands of those living with paralysis and their families with useful, often life-saving and life-changing information that can be accessed through quick links and message boards on the web, said Goldberg. It can wholeheartedly be said that the center is making a difference in the world for people suffering from paralysis.
The Quality of Life Program was Dana Reeve’s brainchild; she personally read every application and helped decide who would ultimately be funded. Reeve knew that while her husband was focused on the research and ultimately the “cure”, it was her role to make sure people could adapt to the day-to-day changes that came with living with paralysis, said Goldberg.
Donna Valente, Director of Quality of Life Grants at the foundation who has worked with the organization since 1996, has had both the honor and privilege to work alongside both Dana and Christopher Reeve. When asked what the late Dana Reeve brought to CDRF as her greatest contribution, Valente had this to say:
“Dana brought her passion and heart to the organization, and widened the focus from strictly paralysis cure research to address the critical and woefully under-recognized issues of life for families coping with spinal cord injuries. She also brought intelligence, personal experiences and her time to the table, as we spent many hours reviewing grant proposals.”
Though CDRF is geared towards research for a cure Dana Reeve believed fervently that there were millions of people who deserved an improvement in their lives now, and in the time she was alive she did everything she could to fulfill her vision.
While CDRF does not currently offer any services specifically for woman, many of the over 1,700 Quality of Life grants awarded since 1999 have been geared towards women and girls and that is her doing, said Valente. It is in the foundation and in her Quality of Life Program that Dana Reeve lives on and continues to instill hope in people suffering from paralysis all over the world.
“She deeply empathized with individuals and families, working and interacting with people with unmatched grace, warmth and compassion. It is Dana who embodied and essentially launched the “care” in our motto, ‘Today’s Care. Tomorrow’s Cure’,” said Valente.
For more information on the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation visit their website at http://www.christopherreeve.org and ‘Go Forward’.