When Reeve was injured in 1995, his wife, Dana Reeve, turned to the APA for help. According to Susan Howley, executive vice president and director of research for the now Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, it was around that time that the APA grew from a singularly focused organization with an individual grants program to launch a research consortium that fostered collaboration and networking at the basic science level.
Reeve later formed his own organization — the Christopher Reeve Foundation — devoted to finding a cure. He became chairman of the board of the APA in 1996 and, impressed by the strength-in-numbers mentality of its research consortium, he later suggested that his own organization merge with the APA — becoming the Christopher Reeve Paralysis Foundation — and offered to lend his name and passion to help in a shared quest for a cure.
When tragedy struck again and Reeve died unexpectedly on Oct. 10, 2004, at age 52, it sent a shock felt across the world, and one that shook CRPF to its core. Because he was intimately involved in so many aspects of the organization, there was a fair amount of questions about whether the foundation would continue and be able to sustain itself after Reeve’s death.
Luckily, the organization had a communications plan in place in the event of a crisis. Created by Maggie Goldberg, senior vice president of marketing and communications for the Christopher and Dana Reeve Foundation, it set guidelines for who would be the spokesperson, how and when the organization would release a statement to the public, which reporter it would call first, and what would happen on the Web site, etc.
Having such a plan in place proved invaluable. The morning after Reeve died, the organization launched a new landing page on its Web site with a message to the public and a memorial where people could post messages of condolence and donate in Reeve’s memory.