In an exclusive interview to be aired on the June 18 episode of People’s List on ABC, Will Reeve, now 24, opened up about his beloved father and mother, Dana, who famously cared for her husband after he became paralyzed after a horseback-riding accident in 1995.
“They were the people who told me to turn off the TV, to eat my broccoli, to go to bed,” says Will.
“I understand that not every child experiences going to the grocery store and seeing their dad on the magazine at the checkout aisle, but … it was a totally normal childhood.”
A totally normal childhood – with totally normal parents.
Though he was a celebrity-turned-spinal cord injury advocate, Christopher put his role as a father first.
“The fact that he was paralyzed did present its own set of challenges because we couldn’t be spontaneous,” says Will. “That could be difficult, but my parents did such a good job of staying true to their values that I never felt deprived of a normal childhood, even though my experiences, at face value, were inherently different from other children my age.”
For more on Will Reeve, pick up the new issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands everywhere Friday. Then tune into People’s List June 18 at 8 p.m. ET on ABC.
Indeed, Will recalls learning to ride a bike as a child – as his dad coached him from his wheelchair.
“I didn’t believe it was gonna work. I’m terrified, but I have my dad’s voice behind me going, ‘Steady, steady, left, right, left, right,'” says Will. “By the third lap, I’m smiling, looking at my dad, waving, and he’s smiling. That meant so much to him. Later on, I would race in him the wheelchair. He’d let me win.”
The father and son further bonded over their love of competition and athletics as Will grew older.
“I’ve always been a huge sports fan. I’ve never been that great [an athlete], but he would always just leave me with a barrage of compliments, which, looking back, I cherish more than anything.”
Today, Will channels his love for the game into his professional life as a contributing reporter for ESPN’s SportsCenter.
Will’s other pursuit these days is to carry on his parents’ legacy. (Christopher died of heart failure in 2004, Dana of cancer in 2006.) As an ambassador for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation – which aims to find a cure for spinal cord injuries and provide care for patients who are affected by paralysis – “I understand how important their story is to so many people, and, of course, it’s important to me and my family.”
Adds Will: “My dad was obsessed with finding a cure for spinal cord injury so that he might walk again; he truly believed that he would. That is what sustained him.
“I hope I make my parents proud. I try to do that every day and like to think they would be,” he adds.
Tune into PEOPLE’s List on Saturday (8 p.m. ET) to watch the interview.