While actor Christopher Reeve is best known for playing the character of Superman in the movie and its three sequels. His legacy of helping, supporting and further the education and research on paralysis makes him a real-life Superman.
In 1995, when Christopher Reeve was injured during a horse riding accident , he shattered his first and second vertebrae. Reeve considered not having a life saving operation that would leave him paralyzed from the neck down but without any brain damage. Reportedly , he discussed with his wife the possibility of assisted self-suicide if he was too much of a burden on his family, or just couldn’t be happy with living in that condition. After having the surgery, Reeve realized how much his children still needed him in their life and he never discussed ending his life again. Instead, Reeve took the power of positive thinking, drawing inspiration from other patients with spinal cord injuries that he had met and began to work on living the best life possible. Reeve used the media who was covering his situation to try to help others and bring a spotlight to those with disabilities. He would go on to host the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta, Georgia and his efforts garnered him the cover of Time magazine in 1996. The APA (American Paralysis Association) was one of the first places that he and his wife Dana turned to. By 1999, the APA and Christopher’s foundation came together as the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which added Dana’s name to its moniker after her untimely death in March 2006.
Christopher and Dana were never celebrity figureheads. They were hands-on, activist leaders, who rallied a swelling chorus of voices advocating for people living with paralysis. They recognized that the true heroes in the spinal cord injured community are those living with paralysis and their families.
Christopher Reeve put a human face on spinal cord injury and had an unrelenting drive to pursue the best research in the world. It was his vision, his passion, and his brilliance that attracted young scientists to take on the cause and advance the field of spinal cord research.
Over the years, Christopher Reeve battled multiple infections and health issues, but never wavered in his undending support for furthering research and help for people all over the world who deal with paralysis and other disabilities.
Christopher Reeve died on October 10, 2004 at the age of 52. Christopher is survived by his children Matthew, Alexandra, and Will, all of whom are actively involved with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. A memorial service was scheduled for him nearly three weeks after his death and close to a thousand people attended the service which featured Robin Williams, Meryl Streep and Glenn Close as speakers.
In 2002, the Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) opened its doors thanks to the leadership and vision of Dana Reeve. Through the PRC, they offer a free, comprehensive, national source of informational support for people living with paralysis and their caregivers. Their primary goals are to foster involvement in the community, promote health and improve quality of life.
Christopher Reeve was a hero for many causes
Christopher’s community and political involvement pre-dates his spinal cord injury. Over the course of many years, he served as a national spokesman on behalf of the arts, campaign finance reform and the environment.
A founder and co-president of The Creative Coalition, he helped to create recycling in New York City and to persuade state legislature to set aside one billion dollars to protect the city’s water supply.
Since 1976, he was actively involved with Save the Children, Amnesty International, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Environmental Air Force and America’s Watch. In 1987, he demonstrated in Santiago, Chile on behalf of 77 actors threatened with execution by the Pinochet regime. For this action, Christopher was given a special Obie Award in 1988 and the annual award from the Walter Briehl Human Rights Foundation.
His second book, Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life, was published by Random House in September 2002. The audio rendition of Nothing is Impossible garnered Christopher his second Grammy nomination for Best Spoken Word Album.
At the same time, a documentary film about his advocacy and road to recovery entitled Christopher Reeve: Courageous Steps aired on ABC television in the United States. The documentary was directed by Reeve’s eldest son Matthew and has been distributed around the world.
In September 2003, Christopher was awarded the Mary Woodard Lasker Award for Public Service in Support of Medical Research and the Health Sciences from the Lasker Foundation. Recognized for perceptive, sustained and heroic advocacy for medical research in general, and people living with disabilities in particular, Christopher was selected for this distinction by a jury of scholars and scientists.
In August 2004, Christopher completed directing his last project, The Brooke Ellison Story. This fact-based A&E cable television movie, which aired October 25, 2004, is based on the book Miracles Happen: One Mother, One Daughter, One Journey. Brooke Ellison became a quadriplegic at age 11 but with determination and the support of her family, Ellison rose above her disability and went on to graduate from Harvard University. The film stars Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Lacey Chabert and John Slattery.
Follow the link below if you want to support the Reeve Foundation, by volunteering, fundraising or donating:
You Can Watch The Christopher Reeve Documentary Below: