The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation started as a grassroots movement by pioneers who refused to accept the long-standing dogma that a spinal cord, once injured, could never recover or be repaired.
In 1982, New Jersey teenager Henry Stifel was involved in a car accident that left him with quadriplegia at the age of 17. Led by Henry's father, the family mobilized friends, neighbors, scientists, bankers, and local political leaders to form a foundation to raise money for spinal cord research.
At that point in time, spinal cord research was at its infancy and nicknamed the “graveyard of neurobiology.” But what started as a community response to a crisis quickly grew into a national movement.
Just a few years later, in an effort to maximize resources and avoid duplication, the Stifel Paralysis Research Foundation and the American Paralysis Association (APA) joined forces in the mid-1980s under the APA banner. Through its support of cutting-edge basic science, the APA changed the field of paralysis research, transforming it from an obscure specialty practiced by a few scientists in isolated labs, to one of the most exciting and collaborative areas of neuroscience.
In 1995, when Christopher Reeve was injured, the APA was one of the first places that he and 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 created a culture of hope… and it was contagious.
Today, through the Reeve Foundation's persistence and promise, neuroscientists around the world agree that repairing the damaged spinal cord is not a question of if, but a question of when.
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy.
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. And while Dana was universally known as the model for caregiving, her real legacy is the creation of our Paralysis Resource Center that has reached so many of those living with paralysis and their families with life-changing resources.
Our mission can be summed up into four words, “Today’s Care. Tomorrow’s Cure.” which reflects the dual purpose set forth by Christopher and Dana to provide a continuum of hope for individuals living with paralysis worldwide.
In 2002, the Reeve Foundation Paralysis Resource Center (PRC) opened its doors thanks to the leadership and vision of Dana Reeve. Through the PRC, we offer a free, comprehensive, national source of informational support for people living with paralysis and their caregivers. Our primary goals are to foster involvement in the community, promote health and improve quality of life.
The PRC consists of a variety of services, communities, and programs, including:
Information specialists are trained to help anyone – from newly-paralyzed individuals and their family members, to persons who have lived with disabilities for quite some time – by providing individualized support and information with the ability to respond in over 170 languages.
Peer & Family Support Program fosters peer-to-peer support, via trained and certified mentors. Our ultimate goal is to help individuals find support and resources among the communities who best understand the day-to-day realities and long-term challenges individuals living with paralysis face.
Our Quality of Life Grants Program has awarded over 2,500 grants, totaling more than $19 million in financial support for fellow nonprofits that mirror the Reeve Foundation’s mission. The grants focus on programs or projects that foster community engagement and involvement, while promoting health and wellness for individuals living with paralysis.
The Military & Veterans Program (MVP) supports the unique needs of current service members and veterans, regardless of when they served or how their injury was obtained.
Advocacy/Policy programs are designed to not only help individuals advocate for themselves, but also to advance important issues for the greater community of individuals with paralysis.
Since 1982, the Reeve Foundation has awarded nearly $120 million to labs around the globe to accelerate scientific breakthroughs across the field. To achieve our mission – cures for spinal cord injury – requires the collaboration of the most renowned minds in neuroscience.
To that end, we support a vast range of research programs that bring together scientific leaders from different disciplines to speed the delivery of therapies and treatments for spinal cord injury.
Our research programs include:
NeuroRecovery Network® (NRN), a cooperative network of rehabilitation centers charged with developing and – more importantly – providing therapies that promote functional recovery and improve the health and overall quality of life for people living with paralysis.
The North American Trials Network® (NACTN) is a coalition of clinical centers to advance promising therapies from the laboratory into clinical trials to demonstrate effectiveness and safety.
Through the International Research Consortium on Spinal Cord Injury, the Reeve Foundation is helping to launch the next generation of spinal cord scientists. Consortium members have made key discoveries that have led directly to potential spinal repair treatments.
The Big Idea is a campaign to fast track the next phase of epidural stimulation research and work with regulatory authorities to advance this groundbreaking therapy to the clinic.
Other key programs
Team Reeve® is the grassroots fundraising program of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. From running marathons to hosting local events (i.e. school events and 5ks), supporters transform their passions into opportunities to rally around the Reeve Foundation mission. Joining Team Reeve means signing up to change lives.
Another fundraising arm of the Reeve Foundation is Team LeGrand which was founded in 2013 by former Rutgers football standout, Eric LeGrand, who sustained a spinal cord injury during a college football game. The mission of Team LeGrand is to help individuals living with spinal cord injury and their families by supporting quality of life initiatives and emerging therapies that will get us to the end zone – cures for SCI.
Champions Committee members carry on the legacy of our founders by bringing together young professionals and philanthropists to further the Reeve Foundation’s mission by promoting advocacy and fundraising for innovative research.