Will Reeve, the 14-year-old son of the late Christopher and Dana Reeve, took to the podium and spoke at A Magical Evening, the annual fundraiser for the Christopher Reeve Foundation in New York City Monday night. It was the first time the event was held without either Christopher, who died in 2004, or Dana, who succumbed to lung cancer in March.
“Before I get started I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who has supported me and my family through these tough times,” Reeve, wearing a tuxedo and, at 5′ 11″, starting to resemble his dad, told the audience, “and for making me smile and feel good about everything. And I’m doing very well.”
Behind him were two black-and-white images of his parents, illuminated by spotlights, below the words, “Go Forward.”
He spoke poignantly about looking forward to going to the Magical Evening with his parents in the past, and joked about how his parents sometimes had trouble heading out for the evening. “Mom always took at least three efforts to leave the house,” he said. “Dad would be patiently waiting in the van, knowing that Mom would be downstairs looking incredible even if she was a few minutes late.
“In fact, Dad was secretly glad for those extra minutes anyway. A little-known secret about him: He never wrote his speeches in advance. So on the ride down here he would sit back with his eyes closed, coming up with something funny to say. And he would come out on stage with these perfectly formed paragraphs. Mom looked, as dad would say it, ‘Wow!’ And we all had a great time and enjoyed the night.”
He was joined on stage by Reeve’s older children, Alexandra, 22, and Matthew, 26, who have been carrying on their dad’s fight to find a cure for paralysis as board members of the Christopher Reeve Foundation.
Alexandra spoke next, telling the crowd, “The past two years have been incredibly tough ones for our family. But we found strength in rallying together to support this mission.” Now, she added, “amazing things are happening. People are walking because of physical therapy programs funded by the CRF.”
Later in the evening, a 3-year-old boy named Chase Ford, who was paralyzed from the neck down (as Christopher Reeve was) only 18 months ago, walked across the stage on his own, using only a small walker. His ability to walk was due to a CRF-funded physical therapy program that is slowly teaching his body to walk again.
The Magical Evening, which was hosted by Bebe Neuwirth and Harvey Fierstein and featured performances by Donny Osmond, Nathan Lane and the cast of the Broadway hit Jersey Boys at the Marriott Marquis in Times Square, raised more than $2.5 million – the second largest amount the night has ever raised in the foundation’s history. As CRF President Peter Kiernan put it, despite the loss of Dana and Christopher, “This organization is here to stay.”