In her #unselfie – an “unselfish selfie” — Kristen Reilly Weiss shared that she supports the Foundation for her dad, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease almost 20 years ago. At the time, the only information about the disease she could find was in dense, complicated medical journals. That changed when Michael J. Fox announced his diagnosis and founded the Foundation.
“It was nice to have a face of someone who was going about their business,” she says. “It’s a disease that you can have and you can live with for a while, and you can do things that you like and enjoy. And any time you can give a public face to a disease, it encourages people to learn more about it. You find now that they know a little bit more about it than asking 'Oh, does he shake?'”
Today, Kristen lives in Chesapeake, Virginia with her husband and two children. The family has been supporting the Foundation for several years, including when she and her husband got married and made donations to the Foundation in lieu of wedding favors.
Kristen’s husband, who is the military, gives to the Foundation as part of the Combined Federal Campaign, which automatically deducts donations from his paycheck.
Besides supporting the Foundation's mission to find better treatments and a cure, Kristen also appreciates its educational role. Far removed from the time she spent puzzling over medical journals, she looks forward to receiving the Foundation’s correspondences on upcoming drug trials and research news. She often forwards emails over to her parents, who then bring up the latest research with her dad’s neurologist.
As for public knowledge of the disease, she says it’s gotten a lot better, but when encouraging others to support the Foundation she’s sure to note that ideal treatments aren't there yet.
“The medicine and therapies that are available right now make some parts of this disease easier to manage but they are far from a cure,” she says. “A donation to the Michael J Fox Foundation will help get new drugs and therapies available for people like my Dad who really need them and ultimately help us get closer to a cure.”
Audrey, 5, with her grandfather.