Touro Infirmary

FALL 2013

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H olly Robinson Peete has been many things—actress, talk show host, singer, radio personality. But the roles that have sparked her most fervent passion and turned her into an outspoken healthcare activist are closer to home: mom and daughter. As the mother of four, including a teenage son with autism, and as the daughter of a dad who suffered from Parkinson's disease, Robinson Peete says she's experienced both the joys and the challenges of caregiving. "It's the one thing we all eventually have to go through, whether it's caring for our parents or our children—or sometimes both at the same time," she says. "I've found that it can be very difficult, but the No. 1 thing is taking care of yourself. I always joke, 'If I go down, this whole operation goes down!'" she says. EXPANDING HER REACH Today, Robinson Peete says her own experiences with meeting the needs of her son and father have helped shape the initiatives she's launched for both autism and Parkinson's. In 2002, her Beverly Hills, Calif.-based HollyRod Foundation partnered with the University of Southern California to offer a range of services for people with Parkinson's who have HEALTHY BENEFITS Robinson Peete—who hosts an annual star-studded Hollywood fund-raising event for the HollyRod Foundation and serves as a board member for the group Autism Speaks and the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California—says her busy schedule makes it even more vital to maintain her own wellness with healthy eating and vitamin therapy, especially B vitamins, omegas and calcium. Above all, she says, keeping fit gives her the stamina to continue working on the projects she loves. "My biggest goal right now is getting in that gym at least three to four times a week," she says. "With all the balls I have in the air, I'm focusing on keeping up my cardio and physical health. It keeps my energy up!" • PHOTO CREDIT: CHRISTOPHER VOELKER ALL IN THE FAMILY Robinson Peete's father, Matthew Robinson Jr. (the original Gordon on "Sesame Street"), was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1982 when he was just 44. Along with her family, Robinson Peete helped support her dad both emotionally and financially until his death in 2002. In 1997 she and her husband, former NFL quarterback , Rodney Peete, formed the HollyRod Foundation to help others with Parkinson's. When her oldest son, RJ, was diagnosed with autism as a toddler, the foundation expanded its mission to include those affected by autism disorders as well. But Robinson Peete says she and her husband felt that more effort was needed to further bring both diseases into the public arena. "When these things happen to you, or to people in your family, you tend to start feeling sorry for yourself and thinking, 'Why me?'" she says. "We didn't see anybody having [public] conversations about Parkinson's or autism. So my husband said, 'You have a forum and a big mouth— you might as well use it!' "We didn't want to label our son publicly or have him be a 'poster child,' but we also knew how important it was to talk about it. We felt like it needed to be us— so here we are." limited financial and insurance resources. And in 2010, the foundation introduced a campaign to provide nabi tablet computers and specially designed apps for those with autism who are nonverbal or minimally verbal. "We are blessed to have the resources to go through all of the daily stuff," says Robinson Peete. "But so many families go through it without financial or physical or local resources." Working with El Segundo, Calif.-based Fuhu Inc., which makes the nabi tablets, Robinson Peete and the foundation are renovating the local autism care center that her son attended to widely expand its offerings beyond speech therapy. "We hope to have it done early next year," she says. "It will also have a sibling room, where kids can come and do homework, and we'll have couples therapy for parents because [having a child with] autism puts a lot of stress on couples. We want to make this a full-service center to help treat the whole family, not just the affected child." ROL E CAL L In addition to starring with her husband, Rodney Peete, on the daily satellite radio program "Meet the Peetes" in 2008, Holly Robinson Peete has enjoyed a successful television career on network series including: • "Mike & Molly" • "Celebrity Apprentice" season 3 • "The Talk" • "21 Jump Street" • "Hangin' with Mr. Cooper" • "For Your Love" • "One on One" < Holly Robinson Peete and her oldest son, RJ w w w. s p i r i t o f w o m e n . c o m FA L L 2 013 SPI RIT O F WOM EN 19

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