Thursday, September 25, 2008

Remembering Christopher Reeve on his 56th Birthday, He will always be our Superman!

It is hard to believe that Christopher Reeve is no longer with us, and of course the loss of his wife Dana as well! Today would have been his 56th birthday. He has done so much for the disability community, and specifically for people with spinal cord injuries. I remember how shocked I was when I first heard about him being injured. I mean he was Superman!

Christopher Reeve is someone that brought a face to people with disabilities and the hope of trying to find a cure. He started the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, which does everything from fundraising money for research, to being an advocate for everyone with disabilities. I almost had the chance to meet him years ago at a disability camp that I went to in Newport, Rhode Island called Shake-A-Leg. He was at the camp to speak to all the campers with disabilities and missed his visit. However, I had heard an interesting story from one of the other campers that got to visit him after he spoke at the camp. The camper said that just by spending a few minutes talking with him, he realized that if Christopher Reeve can live with his disability, so can he. The camper was someone that was newly injured, very depressed, and didn’t want to go on with life. Just by being around Christopher Reeve, not only was he inspired by him, but he said Chris’s spirit was contagious. I never found out what happened to that camper, but I hope he is still doing great and that he will never forget his visit with Christopher Reeve.

I used to work for an injury prevention program called Think First, which was a non-profit organization and for about 5 years we received a $5000 grant from the Christopher Reeve foundation. This money was allocated to our “disability public speaker training program.” We would find people in the community with brain and spinal cord injuries and taught them how to tell their story. These speakers would then go on to educate students of all ages in school assemblies to use their minds, to protect their bodies. I first started out as a participant in the speaker training program and within a year I was running it. So, without the help of the Christopher Reeve foundation I would have never gone on to become a public speaker, and a teacher to others.

A very good friend of mine, Elaine Stefanowicz from Tacoma, WA, was Ms. Wheelchair 1996 and went on to become Ms. Wheelchair America in 1997. Through all her travels as Ms. Wheelchair America, she had the honor of meeting Christopher and Dana Reeve at a benefit for their foundation and this is what she had to say about them both.

“It was a thrill to be able to meet Christopher Reeve and his wife Dana. It was truly an experience I will never forget,” said Elaine Stefanowicz, Ms. Wheelchair America 1997.

In the spirit of what would have been Christopher Reeve's 56th birthday, I am going to honor him and his dream of seeing a cure for spinal cord injury by making a personal donation of $56 dollars. I hope that this will inspire some of you to do the same.

Tammy Wilber, Injured with SCI since 1993
~Today’s Care. Tomorrow’s Cure.~
(The motto of the Christopher and Dana Reeves Foundation)

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