Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation Improves Lives
President and CEO of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, Peter Wilderotter, discusses how the foundation works to advance the quality of life for people living with paralysis and spinal cord injuries in America through research and public awareness.
"Hi, I'm Steve Adubato. Welcome to the Tisch WNET Studio here in the heart of Lincoln Center. It is my honor and pleasure to welcome Peter Wilderotter, who is the president and chief executive officer of the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation. Welcome. It's nice to be here. Thank you for having me. By the way, you know public broadcasting well, don't you? Yeah. I worked for WNYC for six years in the early part of this century. Helping to raise money? Helping to raise money. We still do that. We still... [laughter] We never stopped doing that! You've got probably a couple tote bags in your closet. Yeah. Fighting the good cause. Yeah. Speaking of good causes, this foundation, the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, extraordinary. Talk about Christopher and Dana Reeve first. Who they were, why they matter so much, and the work of this foundation, why it's so important. Yeah. I think we tell the story of spinal cord work the way we tell the story of history. BC and AD. Before Christopher and after Dana. And before Chris, there really wasn't that much hope. You were... if your family... if you yourself had a spinal cord injury, you were met by a doctor in a hospital and essentially said, "Here's your chair, here's your medications, here's what you can used to, and what the state will provide. And oh, by the way..." in sort of a cruel afterthought, "that which you get back in the first couple of weeks after the injury is what you can expect for the rest of your life." Chris changed that dogma completely. He actually had the audacity to talk about a cure. And fought the good fight to raise awareness, to raise money, to get scientists to collaborate, to get the community to participate, in that. And... Excuse me. Take a step back. Chris' accident was in what year? In 1995. And... Put in context... I'm sorry for interrupting Peter, but put in context, for those who may not remember, what and who Christopher was at the time in the American pop culture scene, and why he was such an important figure? Well Chris was an extraordinarily well known actor, and he was Superman. And... He literally played Superman?He literally played Superman. And so it became the metaphor. You know, Superman got injured. And he used that celebrity... he actually used that celebrity prior to his injury. He founded an organization called The Creative Coalition, because he believed that actors not only should be... lend their name to organizations, but they should be informed and educated. I actually met him in a previous organization because he was an advocate. The organization was Planned Parenthood..."