Some of the choices in life will choose you. How you face those choices, these turns in the road, with what kind of attitude, more than the choices themselves, is what will define the context of your life.

- Dana Reeve

When Christopher Reeve was injured in 1995, Dana Reeve was faced with a choice. She could fall apart and grieve her former life, or she could face the challenges of paralysis head on and champion their “new normal.” She chose the latter and became one of the most notable caregivers in the world, as well as the cofounder of the Reeve Foundation.

Today, March 6, 2016, we mark 10 years since her passing. It’s hard to believe it has been so long since Dana graced the stage at A Magical Evening, led advocates to Capitol Hill or celebrated the latest round of Quality of Life grantees.

Dana’s relentless courage and huge heart became her hallmark. Celebrities, congressional leaders, corporate executives and community members admired not only her indomitable spirit, but the many contributions she made to enhance the quality of life for all individuals living with paralysis and their caregivers.

She was, without a doubt, the spark that ignited an incredible movement.

That movement started by giving caregivers a voice. Dana knew firsthand the many roles and responsibilities of caregivers who were also juggling double or triple duty as parents, spouses, partners, siblings and children, as well as advocates for their loved one living with paralysis. Caregivers were largely overlooked and considered a secondary audience to many support groups. Dana gave them a seat at the table to be seen and heard.

While most remember her as Christopher Reeve’s wife, Dana’s legacy is best summed up through the achievements of the Paralysis Resource Center (PRC).

Dana compared the days and weeks following Christopher’s injury to trying to land on another planet without a map. There was no centralized resource to find information, understand the injury and prepare family members for the inevitable shift that comes with paralysis. It was overwhelming, frightening and frustrating. Dana was not going to let another family struggle to navigate their way forward, so she committed to building a solution.

In 2002, the PRC launched to provide a constellation of free resources and services that support not only individuals living with paralysis, but also their family, friends and caregivers. Some of our accomplishments include:

  • Over 180,000 Paralysis Resource Guides have been distributed, providing a comprehensive overview of what to expect following a spinal cord injury or diagnosis of paralysis.
  • One of Dana’s most cherished initiatives was the Quality of Life Grants program, which offers funding to local nonprofits that mirror the Reeve Foundation mission. To date, we have awarded over 2,500 grants, totaling more than $19 million in financial support.
  • We created the Peer and Family Support Program to build a vast peer-to-peer network with over 500 certified peer mentors who are expertly paired with people impacted by paralysis to offer firsthand advice and insights.
  • Our information specialists represent the frontlines of the PRC, answering any questions via email or phone with the ability to respond in 170 languages. We have assisted close to 70,000 people to date.

There are few people who have such a profound and lasting legacy on the paralysis and caregiver communities like Dana Reeve. She is still a brilliant light and force within the Reeve Foundation, whose beliefs and actions continue to guide us forward.

To honor her contributions and highlight how her vision continues to influence our work, we are dedicating the month of March to Dana.

Over the next few weeks, we will be posting quotes, photos, letters, articles and blogs that address her legacy and role as a caregiver. All content will be marked #ForDana so that our community can collectively celebrate the work of this remarkable woman.

Even though she did not like the word, Dana was heroic. She was a catalyst for change, a beacon of hope, a champion for millions and an unflinching optimist even in the darkest times. Losing her was devastating, but it reminded us to be relentless in our pursuit of our mission – to enhance quality of life and discover cures for paralysis in the here-and-now.

And as we mark this somber milestone, remember her words:

“Be brave. Be open-minded. Be kind. Be forgiving. Be generous. Be optimistic. Be grateful for the many unexpected lessons you will learn. Find the joy inside the hardship. It's there. I assure you. And, too, be open to inspiration from unlikely sources.”

Please honor Dana Reeve by posting #ForDana and giving a gift in her honor at ChristopherReeve.org/Donate or text “Reeve” to 20222 to donate $10 to the Reeve Foundation.

Peter T. Wilderotter
President and CEO
Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation