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Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation Names 2019 Honorees

Dana and Christopher Reeve (Image Source:

By Taylor Smith

This year’s gala benefit for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation took place on Thursday, November 14 at Cipriani South Street in New York City.

The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation grew out of the community-driven Stifel Paralysis Research Foundation, which was founded in 1982 when Henry Stifel, a New Jersey high school student, was involved in a car accident that left him paralyzed at age 17. The organization evolved into the American Paralysis Association (APA). When actor Christopher Reeve was injured in a horseback riding accident in 1995, the APA was one of the first places that Reeve and his wife, Dana, sought support. By 1999, the APA and Christopher’s foundation united as the Christopher Reeve Foundation (Dana’s name was added to the moniker after her death in 2006).

According to the foundation’s website (, “Christopher fought to increase research funding at a federal level by appearing in front of Congress as a patient advocate. And while ardent research continued, Dana Reeve established the Quality of Life Grants program to aid organizations working to enhance the quality of life for those living through the day-to-day challenges of disability.”

With the goal of “empowering those affected by paralysis with the best knowledge, resources, and support,” the 2019 gala honored John McConnell and The Brown Family.

McConnell suffered a spinal cord accident in 2005 and, just one year later, ran in the New York City Marathon for Team Reeve. He has since run in multiple marathons for Team Reeve raising close to $1 million. In 2010, McConnell was appointed as the vice chairman of the Reeve Foundation Board of Directors. He continues to utilize his influential role as founder of McConnell Media LLC to bring national attention and awareness to the Reeve Foundation.

In 1988, Alan T. Brown was vacationing in Martinique when an undertow flipped him over and paralyzed him from the neck down. Six months after his injury, Fran and Benjy Brown co-founded the Alan T. Brown Foundation to bring a better quality of life to those living with paralysis.

Dinner co-chairs included Dan Cahill, Coppy Holzman, Jeff Miller, Jason Pomeranc, Barri Rafferty, Jim Ross, Scott Shannon, and Debbie Wolpov.

It is estimated that 1 in 50 people in the U.S. live with paralysis (about 5.4 million people). The leading cause of paralysis is stroke (33.7 percent), followed by spinal cord injury (27.3 percent), and multiple sclerosis (18.6 percent). 41.8 percent of people living with paralysis are unable to work and are often unable to afford health insurance that adequately covers the complex health services that are commonly linked with these conditions.

Ensuring that the millions of people living with paralysis have access to the health care they need, as well as quality jobs, education, effective treatment, and therapies, is at the heart of the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation’s mission.

To learn more, visit

Image Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders

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