Remembering Superman

Christopher Reeve

September 25, 2014

This has been a year of milestones for the Reeve Foundation. We celebrated groundbreaking research with epidural stimulation; we surpassed $17 million in our Quality of Life Grants Program; the Reeve Foundation information specialists hit 60,000 inquiries; and we announced Team LeGrand, an exciting partnership that will serve as a fundraising arm of the Reeve Foundation.

The reason I am citing all of these achievements is that they represent our efforts to move the Reeve Foundation mission forward – to advance the care and discover cures for paralysis.

Today also marks an important day for the Reeve Foundation. Sixty-two years ago, Christopher Reeve was born. Even though it is entirely coincidental, his birthday also falls within National Spinal Cord Injury Awareness Month.

While September 25 is a somber milestone, it is also a time to celebrate the legacy and contributions that Christopher brought to the field. He challenged us to imagine a world without wheelchairs and inspired researchers to push harder to discover treatments and therapies for spinal cord injury.

Not a day goes by that the Reeve Foundation does not honor its founder's spirit as we strive to serve the six million individuals living with paralysis through the Paralysis Resource Center and our research program.

Christopher was a champion of hope and positivity. He never let his injury define him but rather fuel him to go forward. Rather than dwell on his passing, I would like to highlight one of my favorite Christopher Reeve quotes, "A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles."

By all accounts, Christopher was a hero as he used his powerful presence to fight for the millions living with disabilities and mobilize the masses to join ranks with the Reeve Foundation.

But being a hero does not mean you have the loudest voice or millions of fans. Some of the most admirable individuals that I have met across the paralysis community are heroic simply because they are brave enough to share their stories.

Honest conversations are critical to moving our mission forward. Almost daily, I have to explain to an individual, company, legislator, etc. that a spinal cord injury goes far beyond immobility.

As we know, living with a spinal cord injury comes with a host of complications outside of movement, such as the inability to control bladder, bowel, sexual function, as well as cardiovascular and respiratory dysfunction. Mobility is only surface deep – but it is what the average able-bodied person understands about spinal cord injury.

Recently, our very own Dan Griffin was published on Huffington Post discussing the reality of paralysis. He eloquently cited the most difficult part of living with a spinal cord injury – it robs him of time. In his words, "In a perfect world, we all dream of getting up and out of our wheelchairs but right now, I imagine most of us also dream about reclaiming control of our bodies."

What Christopher, Dan and many other individuals who courageously share their stories are trying to achieve is awareness, understanding and support from their families, friends, coworkers and society so that we are able to make our collective voice louder, stronger and accelerate the progress both in the care/cure of paralysis.

Christopher challenged others to unleash their inner hero through acts of bravery and that includes honest, open dialogue. And here is my challenge for you: share your story with someone new and educate them on the reality of living with paralysis. That is how we will further drive our cause, mobilize support, and work together to deliver on our mission.

Thank you, Christopher for showing the world that nothing is impossible. Today, we will celebrate your legacy and keep moving your dream forward.

Here's to our Superman.

Peter T. Wilderotter

President and CEO
Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation