updated 11/02/2006 AT 4:05 PM ET
•originally published 11/02/2006 AT 4:10 PM ET
Two years after Christopher Reeve’s death, his children are carrying on the cause that meant so much to him – finding a cure for paralysis, PEOPLE reports in its upcoming issue.
“Our dad’s accident really did connect us to this community: 4 million people in the U.S. who are suffering from paralysis,” Reeve’s daughter Alexandra tells PEOPLE in its upcoming issue. “We understand how important it is not only to find a cure but also to improve quality of life.”
Both Alexandra, 22, and her older brother Matthew, 26, serve on the board of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, founded by their father after his devastating 1995 horse-riding accident to fund research for cures and therapies for paralysis.
On Monday the pair will join their half-brother Will Reeve, now 14, onstage at the foundation s annual gala in Manhattan. According to Alexandra, “Will’s doing well. He loves school. He is playing hockey and football and keeping busy with friends.”
Though all three Reeve children are involved in the work their father started, Christopher Reeve’s wife, Dana, who died from lung cancer last March, was careful to make sure the kids were not burdened with their father’s legacy. For that reason, she asked her longtime friend Peter Kiernan to take over as chairman of the foundation.
“I do not want Will’s teenage years to be usurped by this,” Kiernan recalls Dana saying. “It’s fine to help, but I want him to have a teenage boy’s life.” Similarly she said of the older kids, who were from Reeve’s previous relationship with Gae Exton, “I do not want them to feel like their sole mission in life is to carry on their father s legacy.”
Now Dana’s wishes are being fulfilled. Alexandra is in her second year in law school in New York City, and her older brother Matthew, a filmmaker, is working on a documentary. Will is an accomplished athlete who started a new school this fall.
Still, the defining moment of life with their dad – an avid outdoorsman before his injury – was the accident 11 years ago that left him paralyzed from the neck down.
Matthew recalls attending a foundation meeting at which a 3-year-old boy burst into the room; he had recovered the ability to walk with a walker with treadmill therapy funded by the group. Christopher Reeve, Matthew says, would have been proud. “It just really drove home what we are all trying to do.”
To learn more about the work of the Christopher Reeve Foundation, which offers extensive resources to those dealing with paralysis, go to: www.christopherreeve.org