Christopher Reeve biography

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Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve

Christopher Reeve Biography

Actor, director and activist are just some of the words used to describe Christopher Reeve. From his first appearance at the Williamstown Theatre Festival at the age of 15, Reeve established a reputation as one of the country's leading actors. However, since he was paralyzed in an equestrian competition in 1995, Reeve has not only put a human face on spinal cord injury but he has motivated neuroscientists around the world to conquer the most complex diseases of the brain and central nervous system.

After graduating from Cornell University in 1974, Reeve pursued his dream of acting, studying at Juilliard under the legendary John Houseman. He made his Broadway debut opposite Katharine Hepburn in A Matter of Gravity in 1976 and then went on to distinguish himself in a variety of stage, screen and television roles with a passion that continues today. Film credits include: "Superman" in 1978 and its subsequent sequels, "Deathtrap," "Somewhere in Time," "The Bostonians," "Street Smart," "Speechless," "Noises Off," "Above Suspicion" and the Oscar-nominated "The Remains of the Day." Stage credits include: The Marriage of Figaro, Fifth of July, My Life, Summer and Smoke, Love Letters and The Aspern Papers.

Reeve made his directorial debut with "In the Gloaming" on HBO in April 1997. The film was met with rave reviews, was nominated for 5 Emmys and won six Cable Ace Awards, including Best Dramatic Special and Best Director. Reeve's autobiography, Still Me, was published by Random House in April 1998 and spent 11 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List. His audio recording of Still Me earned Reeve a Grammy for Best Spoken Word Album in February 1999. In his first major role since becoming paralyzed, Reeve starred in an updated version of the classic Hitchcock thriller "Rear Window," for which he was nominated for a Golden Globe Award and won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Actor in a Television Movie or Miniseries. He also served as Executive Producer of the film.

Reeve continues his directing work in television and film as well as his arts-advisory service as a board member of the Williamstown Theatre Festival. In early 2001, Reeve began combining his directing efforts with his activism when he directed four commercials featuring Ray Romano, Randy Newman, Toni Morrison and himself for Johnson & Johnson that focused on helping parents talk to their kids. The same year he filmed a spot for the American Red Cross that celebrated volunteerism.

In 1999, Reeve became the Chairman of the Board of the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF). CRPF, a national, nonprofit organization, supports research to develop effective treatments and a cure for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. CRPF also allocates a portion of its resources to grants that improve the quality of life for people with disabilities.

As Vice Chairman of the National Organization on Disability (N.O.D.), he works on quality of life issues for the disabled. In partnership with Senator Jim Jeffords of Vermont, he helped pass the 1999 Work Incentives Improvement Act, which allows people with disabilities to return to work and still receive disability benefits. Reeve is on the Board of Directors of World T.E.A.M. Sports, a group that organizes and sponsors challenging sporting events for athletes with disabilities; TechHealth, a private company that assists in the relationship between patients and their insurance companies; and LIFE (Leaders in Furthering Education) a charitable organization that supports education and opportunities for the underserved population.

In addition to his work on behalf of CRPF, Reeve's advocacy efforts include:

  • Lobbying on behalf of the National Institutes of Health to double the NIH budget in five years. In part because of his leadership, the NIH budget grew from 12 billion dollars in 1998 to nearly 27.2 billion dollars in fiscal 2003.
  • Testifying before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies in favor of federally funded stem cell research;
  • Providing instrumental and crucial support for the passage of the New York State Spinal Cord Injury Research Bill (7287C), landmark legislation that makes available up to $8.5 million annually in funds collected from violations of the state's motor vehicle laws to be appropriated among the leading research facilities in New York. Reeve was also involved in lobbying efforts for similar bills in New Jersey, Kentucky, Virginia and California;
  • Testifying before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies on behalf of the National Fund for Health Research Act;
  • Working with Senators Jeffords and Rockefeller and Congresswoman Eshoo to raise lifetime caps on insurance policies from $1million to $10 million;
  • Serving as a member of the Executive Committee of Funding First, an initiative for medical research in honor of Mary Woodard Lasker, begun by former Senator Mark Hatfield;
  • Establishing a line of celebrity neckwear that is carried at over 1,000 JC Penney department stores across the United States. A portion of the proceeds benefits CRPF;
  • Continuing to work tirelessly to obtain increased funding from both the public and private sectors to cure Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, MS, ALS, stroke, as well as to repair the damaged spinal cord;
  • Helping to establish the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at the UCI College of Medicine. The center supports the study of trauma to the spinal cord and diseases affecting it, with an emphasis on the development of therapies to promote the recovery and repair of neurological function;
  • Working with Dr. John MacDonald of Washington University on a study to demonstrate that activity dependent training promotes functional recovery in patients with chronic spinal cord injuries.

While Reeve raises public awareness about the significance of medical research and the challenges facing those with disabilities, he is also educating families about the importance of having adequate health and disability coverage. In 1997, Reeve joined with HealthExtras, the first company to offer subscribers a tax-free non-accountable payment of 1 million dollars in the event of a permanent accidental disability. The cost of this policy is a mere $10 a month and is available through Visa, American Express or via the internet. Reeve serves as company spokesman.

Reeve's community and political involvement pre-dates his spinal cord injury. Over the course of many years, he has served as a national spokesman on behalf of the arts, campaign finance reform and the environment. A founder and Co-President of The Creative Coalition he helped to create recycling in New York City and to persuade state legislature to set aside 1 billion dollars to protect the city's water supply. Since 1976 he has been actively involved with Save the Children, Amnesty International, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Environmental Air Force and America's Watch. In 1987, he demonstrated in Santiago, Chile on behalf of 77 actors threatened with execution by the Pinochet regime. For this action, Reeve was given a special Obie Award in 1988 and the annual award from the Walter Briehl Human Rights Foundation.

His second book, Nothing is Impossible: Reflections on a New Life, was published by Random House in September 2002. At the same time a documentary film about his advocacy and road to recovery aired on ABC and was distributed around the world.

Christopher Reeve fell into a coma after going into cardiac arrest on 9th October 2004, and died the following day, October 10th 2004. His wife, Dana, made the following statement on the day of his death, 'On behalf of my entire family, I want to thank Northern Westchester Hospital for the excellent care they provided to my husband. I also want to thank his personal staff of nurses and aides, as well as the millions of fans from around the world who have supported and loved my husband over the years.'

He was survived by his mother Barbara Johnson and his father Franklin Reeve, his brother Benjamin Reeve, and his wife Dana, their twelve year old son Will and his two children from a former relationship, Matthew (25) and Alexandra (21).

Christopher and Dana married in April 1992.  After her husband's accident in 1995, Dana worked tirelessly as a motivational speaker and activist for the paralyzed, and a proponent of stem cell research.  Although never a smoker, she died of lung cancer 18 months after her husband on March 6, 2006.


THE CHRISTOPHER REEVE FOUNDATION

The Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation (CRPF) is committed to funding research that develops treatments and cures for paralysis caused by spinal cord injury and other central nervous system disorders. The Foundation also vigorously works to improve the quality of life for people living with disabilities through its grants program, paralysis resource center and advocacy efforts.

At the time of his death, Reeve's Paralysis Foundation had given out more than $42.5 million in grants to neuroscientists since its inception in the mid-1990s. The Foundation will continue its work.


STRATEGIC PARTNERSHIP WITH THE AMERICAN PARALYSIS ASSOCIATION

The CRF wisely partners with APA to direct its funds into proven research channels, including a collaborative network of over 300 investigators around the world. Together, the two non-profit organizations provide support for many of the seminal studies that will culminate in continued medical breakthroughs.

For more information on CRF and its activities:

The Christopher Reeve Foundation (CRF)
P.O. Box 277
F.D.R. Station
New York, NY 10150-0277

(888) 711-HOPE
(973) 912-9433 (fax)



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Nothing Is Impossible jacket Still Me jacket
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