It's not quite what you think – but the two are teaming up for a good cause
Colin Farrell and Retta have some very special Valentine’s Day plans.
No, the movie star and Parks and Recreation funnylady aren’t headed out on a romantic date (though we’d kind of love that), but they are working together to bring attention to a cause that affects them both: Angelman syndrome.
In honor of International Angelman’s Day on Feb. 15, celebrities with personal connections to the disease – Farrell’s son and Retta’s godson both have it – are participating in a video campaign to raise awareness. Angelman syndrome, which affects one in 15,000 births, is an incurable genetic disorder that impairs children’s cognitive and developmental growth, often causing seizures, balance disorders and a lack of speech.
When her godson Brooklyn, now 7, was diagnosed with Angelman’s, Retta had never even heard of it. In fact, most children born with the disorder are generally mis-diagnosed as having more common disorders like autism. Brooklyn’s parents (dad is L.A. manager Sam Maydew) struggled to find the proper diagnosis, eventually getting the answers they needed from specialists in Chicago.
Since then, Brooklyn’s parents have worked to provide their son with the proper therapy and medication, and Retta has joined the Foundation for Angelman Syndrome Therapeutics (FAST), using her star power to spread awareness – and using her hilarious social media feeds, too.
“Anybody, especially if you’re just diagnosed, you feel helpless,” she tells PEOPLE. “And if somebody goes to the website, realizes there’s a Facebook page, you can tell someone, ‘Hey, I know you’re struggling, there are people who are struggling, too, and they can help you.'”
Luckily, there is some hope. “It’s very different now when you’re diagnosed with Angelman’s – especially if your kids are young – than it was just 10 years ago,” Retta says. “Now, there are children who can at least communicate that can say specific words, and they can point out different things to let you know what they want or what they don’t want. My godson plays with the iPad, he knows how to turn on the DVD player and that sort of thing.”
Speaking to PEOPLE in October, Farrell expressed similar hope for – and pride in – his son’s progress.
“I remember the days when he couldn’t watch 10 minutes of a film because he couldn’t sit still,” the Winter’s Tale actor said of James, 10. “But now he can.”
Watch Retta’s video (featuring her adorable godson) above and Farrell’s clip below, and to hear from Wilmer Valderrama, Josh Peck and more stars spreading the word, click here. For more information about FAST and Angelman Syndrome, log on to cureangelman.org.