Honoring the Brown family

Posted by Reeve Staff in Daily Dose on October 04, 2019 # News, Events, Reeve Collaborators

When reflecting on the individuals and institutions that have paved the way for people living with disabilities, we naturally think of Christopher and Dana Reeve. Together, they exemplified what we strive every day to achieve -- the care for those living with paralysis today, and the cures that exist on tomorrow’s horizon. But they were far from alone. Before Christopher was injured, the Brown family -- Fran, Benjy , Alan, Dan, and Steven -- served as one of the original sparks igniting the movement for greater equality and improved quality of life across the entire paralysis community.

On November 14, the Brown family will receive the Christopher Reeve Spirit of Courage Award at the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s annual gala, A Magical Evening.

In 1988, Alan T. Brown was vacationing in Martinique when the undertow flipped him over, resulting in a cervical spinal cord injury and paralyzing him from the neck down. Six months after their son’s injury, Fran and Benjy Brown co-founded the Alan T Brown Foundation (ATBF) to find a cure for paralysis by working with the world’s most renowned scientists, institutions and medical facilities. Soon they expanded their focus on improving quality of life through their extensive Outreach and Peer Mentoring Program and a constellation of resources.

Fran Brown has spearheaded The Alan T Brown Foundation since its inception in 1988 when Alan sustained a spinal cord injury. Under her leadership, ATBF has become a strong force in the paralysis community. Fran’s compassion, personal outreach and mentoring has been central to The Alan T Brown Foundation’s mission of improving quality of life after paralysis.

ATBF also advocates for disability rights, resources and access across New York City. Alan’s brother, Dan Brown, a well-known disability rights advocate, was instrumental in creating the wheelchair division in the New York City Marathon in 1999. More recently, Dan worked on the cases that resulted in fifty-percent of New York’s taxis becoming wheelchair accessible, implemented an emergency plan for people with disabilities in the metro-area, improved the accessibility of sidewalk curb cuts, and is currently fighting for an accessible subway system.

In 2012, Alan T. Brown joined the Reeve Foundation as the Director of Public Impact. In his tenure, Alan has provided direct counsel to hundreds of individuals living with spinal cord injury. He serves as the frontline to provide support to families recently impacted by paralysis. Alan has lived in Florida for the last 22 years where he has enjoyed a successful career in public relations and marketing. Prior to joining the Reeve Foundation, Alan worked for Slim-Fast Foods and managed community affairs for the Florida Marlins. He also launched a sports radio station, 790 The Ticket, and had his own public relations firm. Alan has refused to let his spinal cord injury define his future or limit his goals which includes completing three New York City Marathons, skydiving and scuba diving, but his proudest accomplishment is becoming a father to his two young sons, Max and Sam.

Nearly every individual living with spinal cord injury across the tri-state area has felt the Brown family’s warmth and support, including Christopher and Dana Reeve. The Brown family worked closely with the Reeves to help them navigate the realities and challenges of paralysis. They were one of the first calls Christopher received following his injury and they have remained one of the Reeve family’s closest allies and partners.

In 2019, the Brown family announced a merger with the Reeve Foundation to unite the organizations and optimize resources to further accelerate the development of treatments and programs. In a field saturated with parallel pursuits for the same goal, this partnership signals an important moment to encourage and even demand greater collaboration on behalf of the 5.4 million Americans living with paralysis.

The Christopher Reeve Spirit of Courage Award recognizes individuals who, like Christopher, embrace wild dreams that push towards new frontiers. Recipients are disruptors who never settle for the status quo and believe the greatest superpower is the ability to help others in their time of need. There are few leaders who exemplify the same tenacity and spirit as Christopher Reeve, but the Brown family is an unstoppable force and the Reeve Foundation is grateful for their fierce determination and partnership.

A Magical Evening will be held on November 14, 2019 at Cipriani South Street. If you are interested in attending or want to learn more about the event, please visit our events page.

The National Paralysis Resource Center website is supported by the Administration for Community Living (ACL), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as part of a financial assistance award totaling $8,700,000 with 100 percent funding by ACL/HHS. The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement, by ACL/HHS, or the U.S. Government.