A Heroic Life

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 19: Michael J. Fox accepts the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award during the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences 13th Governors Awards at Fairmont Century Plaza on November 19, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

Michael J. Fox needed his wife to carry the trophy after his 12-minute speech in acceptance of the Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award on November 19. Advanced Parkinson’s makes such activities impossible. “I definitely can’t walk and carry this thing,” the actor and philanthropist said, “so I ask Tracy to once again carry the weight.” 

The award, an honorary Oscar, is presented to individuals from the motion picture industry whose humanitarian efforts have brought credit to the industry. Nobody else in Hollywood could be more deserving, as Fox has established himself as one of the greatest heroes modern cinema has produced. 

Fox flew to television stardom after his take as the Richard Nixon-loving Alex P. Keaton quickly won over audiences’ hearts on the early ‘80s hit sitcom Family Ties. Then came film stardom in the hugely successful Back to the Future trilogy, Teen Wolf, and The Secret of My Success. But in 1991, at age 29 and at the apex of his career, Fox was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Doctors told Fox his career would be over in 10 years. But he worked for another 30 before announcing his retirement in 2020 and his resilience while facing a brutal disease is an inspiration to anyone who cares to learn of this man’s story. With Michael J. Fox, however, there is more. 

In 2000, Fox established the Michael J. Fox Foundation For Parkinson’s Research. The foundation’s stated goal is to “put itself out of business” by finding the cure for Parkinson’s. Fox and his colleagues have done yeoman’s work in the effort. Raising over $1.5 billion in the last 20 years, the foundation is the largest non-profit funder of Parkinson’s drug development, leading to research resulting in more than 20 early-stage therapeutic programs. The foundation developed the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative, which gathers data from those diagnosed with Parkinson’s or with certain Parkinson’s risk factors to learn more about the brain and how to prevent brain disease.

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