A new era of Superman movies dawns, but let’s not forget about the man some say gave the definitive take on Superman. I had the pleasure of speaking with the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation COO Peter T. Wilderotter about the current happenings at the Foundation. Wilderotter was drawn in by Reeve’s vision.
Despite the passing of their founders, the Foundation fights against spinal cord injuries and paralysis. They’ve recently received a $2 million grant from the Department for Defense for “translational research to find treatments” for sufferers, “including servicemen and women,” of spinal cord injury. Wilderotter told me that they’ve to “do more with less” due to a cut to their CDC grant. The recent sequester made it harder for the Reeve Foundation to get needed funds, but no less determined to help people like Eric LeGrand and Rob Summers.
The Reeve legacy lives on with oldest son Matthew still on the board of directors. In fact, Mr. Wilderotter reported that Matthew has seen Man of Steel and likes it. The Foundation have sent Superman tags with their edict to the cast of Man of Steel.
Reeve’s fans enjoy his dramatic roles such as the lovelorn writer in Somewhere in Time. Mr. Wilderotter has informed me that there’s a play based on the movie going on in Portland, Oregon. There is a performance of the play happening on Friday, 21 June. The Reeve Foundation are offering tickets for the pre-show reception and the performance.
The Reeve Foundation’s connection with the play goes beyond the actor and has to do with another hero nicknamed “Superman.” Rob Summers, a pitcher who helped Oregon State win the 2006 National Championship, became paralyzed below the neck due to a hit-and-run accident. Thanks to the efforts of the Reeve Foundation, Summers’ recovery progressed to the point where several body functions returned and he was able to take a few steps. According to Summers’ official website, he currently can stand for an hour and a half.
Wilderotter not only relayed to me the story of Rob Summers, but also explained the epidural stimulation procedure that was used on Summers. Wilderotter said that the procedure reactivates the central pattern generator so that functions can return. If you’re very scientific-minded, there are several academic papers that discuss the central pattern generator, such as “Dynamic control of the central pattern generator for locomotion.”
While Wilderotter acknowledged that it’s harder for able-bodied people to do outreach for the Foundation without their namesakes, he spoke with a honest, total committal for the cause. To him, the Foundation is “keeping an enterprise of hope.”
I asked Wilderotter whether the fight against spinal cord injuries and paralysis is a long, winding road. He responded that the road doesn’t provide a straight A to B path and that given more funding and resources, they could use more advanced therapies and treatments.
On a light-hearted note, Wilderotter was part of the cast of the parody, Gleeve, a video created in honor of former Reeve Foundation chairman of the board, Peter Kiernan.
Wilderotter gave me these words of inspiration which I’ll paraphrase:
Nothing is impossible, get out of your comfort zone, don’t be afraid, ask questions, be prepared, and get people to collaborate.