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20 August 2011

Making a Difference ~ Michael J Fox

by Tracie Koziura

Michael J Fox by Tracie KoziuraMichael J. Fox was born in 1961 in Alberta, Canada. He describes himself as an "Army brat" and moved several times throughout his childhood with his parents, brother and three sisters before finally settling in British Columbia in 1971.

Michael started acting at the age of 15 and at 21 he became known world wide for his character, Alex P. Keaton in the enormously popular "Family Ties" which ran from 1982 to 1989. During his seven years with the show, he earned three Emmy Awards and a Golden Globe, making him one of the country's most prominent young actors. He has since starred in several TV shows and films but is perhaps best remembered for his role as Marty McFly in the Back to the Future Trilogy - the first of which was the highest-grossing film of 1985 and became an international phenomenon, leading to the second and third films which were filmed back-to-back and released in 1989 and 1990 respectively.

In 1991, Michael was diagnosed with Parkinsons Disease. When he finally disclosed his condition in 1998, he received a tremendous amount of publicity and he committed himself to the campaign for increased Parkinson's research. He even received a telephone call from Mohammed Ali. Michael recalls, "For some reason, I returned his call from the phone in my bathroom. In the mirror I could see my eyes welling up as he said, in his eloquent whisper, 'I'm sorry you have this, but with both of us in this fight, we're going to win now.'"

Michael realised that it was no longer a question of if Parkinson's could be cured, but when. Thus began his involvement in senate hearings and the creation of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. "Our sole concern," says Michael, "is to identify the best research and then to raise money and distribute it to the scientists conducting that research as quickly as possible. Our goal as an institution is nothing less than planned obsolescence."

While he maintains a strong commitment to his acting and writing careers, Michael has shifted his primary focus and energies toward The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, which he launched in 2000, and its efforts to raise much-needed research funding and awareness for Parkinson's disease. He is the recipient of honorary degrees from The Karolinska Institute in Sweden, New York University, Mount Sinai School of Medicine and the University of British Columbia. He also has received numerous humanitarian awards for his work and was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2010.

Michael wholeheartedly believes that if there is a concentrated effort from the Parkinson's community, elected representatives in Washington, DC, and (most importantly) the general public, researchers can pinpoint the cause of Parkinson's and uncover a cure within our lifetime.

I first saw Michael J Fox in "Family Ties" when it aired in the UK and I thought he was fantastic! The Back to the Future Trilogy still remain 3 of my favourite movies of all time. I felt dreadfully sad when he announced his condition back in 1998 but I have also been incredibly inspired by his tenacity, resolve and determination not to be a 'victim' of Parkinson's Disease. Michael's courage and dedication to helping to find a cure for this terrible illness is remarkable and I have nothing but respect and admiration for this amazing man!

"Michael J Fox"
Medium: Soft pastels on velour
Size: 9" x 12"
© 2011, Tracie Koziura


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