The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation has announced the honorees for its annual “A Magical Evening” Gala on Thursday, November 17, 2016 at Cipriani Wall Street.

The evening celebrates those who embody the fabric of the Foundation’s mission to cure spinal cord injury and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis.

This year’s event will honor the Shepherd Family with the Christopher Reeve Spirit of Courage Award; the O’Connor Family with the Arnold H. Snider Visionary Leadership Award; and Denna Laing with the Dana Reeve Hope Award.

“2016 has been a banner year for the Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation as we celebrate unprecedented milestones to improve the quality of life for all individuals living with paralysis and cure spinal cord injury in the here and now,” said Peter Wilderotter, President and CEO, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation. “A Magical Evening started as a way to honor those who keep the Reeve Foundation moving forward. Now in its 26th year, the gala continues to shine a light on the real heroes of the Reeve Foundation—the community members and families who embody our mission. We are thrilled to recognize three extraordinary honorees who have truly changed the world with their heroic acts of bravery, selflessness and kindness.”

Harold and Alana Shepherd founded the Shepherd Center in 1975 after their son James sustained a spinal cord injury. The family opened the Shepherd Center in Atlanta GA, when they realized there was a lack of rehabilitation resources to help people living with paralysis reclaim their lives with dignity, independence and hope. What started as a six-bed unit has now grown into a world-renowned rehabilitation facility with the Shepherd Center attracting patients from across the globe.

After Jon O’Connor sustained a spinal cord injury in 2001, he dreamed up NextSteps Chicago to provide cutting-edge therapies to individuals living with paralysis. O’Connor passed away in 2013 due to complications from spinal cord injury, but his family continues to honor his legacy through NextSteps and their work with the Reeve Foundation. NextSteps provides activity-based therapies for people with paralysis in the Chicago-area and it is part of the Reeve Foundation’s NeuroRecovery Network.

On December 31, 2015, Denna Laing’s life changed in an instant. The standout star of the Boston Pride sustained a spinal cord injury playing hockey during the Women’s Winter Classic game. Laing’s injury occurred with less than two minutes left in the first period of the game. When doctors told Laing that she would never walk again, she was determined to prove them wrong and has approached her recovery with the same tenacity that she demonstrated on the ice. In the months following her injury, she has rallied a vast community of supporters including NHL teams and players. Denna will be presented the award by Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the NHL, and Cam Neely, President of the Boston Bruins, Hockey Hall of Fame inductee (class of 2005) following a rich career with the Boston Bruins.

This year’s Board of Directors includes John M. Hughes (Chairman), John E. McConnell (Vice Chairman), Henry G. Stifel, III (Vice Chairman), Matthew Reeve (Vice Chairman, International Development), Joel M. Faden (Treasurer), Jeffrey P. Cunard (Secretary), Peter T. Wilderotter (President & Chief Executive Officer), Timothy J. Connors, Ian Curtis, Stephen Evans-Freke, Tracy Forst, Simone George, Alexandra Reeve Givens, Jack Hagerty, Kelly Anne Heneghan, Esq., Lisa Henry-Holmes, Daniel Heumann, Michael Hoog, Anita McGorty, Timothy R. Pernetti, Mark Pollock, Will Reeve, David Sable, Jay P. Shepard, Marci Surfas, Christopher Tagatac, Tania Taylor, Patricia J. Volland and James O. Welch, Jr.

Through the Reeve Foundation’s persistence and promise, neuroscientists around the world agree that repairing the damaged spinal cord is not a question of if, but a question of when. The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to curing spinal cord injury by funding innovative research, and improving the quality of life for people living with paralysis through grants, information and advocacy.

Proceeds from A Magical Evening enable the Reeve Foundation to continue its pivotal work. For more information and to purchase tickets or tables, visit

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