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The HollyRod Interview (Page 1 of 3)

An Interview with Rodney and Holly Robinson Peete

Holly and Rodney PeeteMr. and Mrs. Peete, better known as Rodney Peete, NFL Football quarterback, and Holly Robinson Peete, actress, created the HollyRod Foundation to give a voice and a hand to those striving for quality of life when theirs has been diminished due to disease or disorders. Through watching Holly’s father, Matthew T. Robinson, writer, producer and actor, struggle with Parkinson’s disease, the Peetes were moved to form the foundation. After Holly and Rodney’s eldest son, RJ, was diagnosed with autism, the foundation’s mission expanded to create the HollyRod4kids initiative.

Holly and Rodney sat down recently with Editor-in-Chief Gary Barg for a wide-ranging interview about caring for one another and their loved ones, as well as those in need and their family caregivers.

Gary Barg:  You started HollyRod Foundation after Holly's dad, the great Matthew Robinson, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. He was, of course, noted for being the first Gordon on Sesame Street and also writer and producer of The Cosby Show.  Why did you start the foundation?  What are its goals?

Holly Robinson Peete:  The Foundation was started in 1997 when my husband, Rodney, basically told me to stop feeling sorry for myself that my dad had Parkinson's disease, but to feel blessed that we had the resources to take care of him when so many people did not.  We provide physical, occupational and speech therapies and other services to families affected by Parkinson's disease that otherwise would not be able to access those services.  So we are thrilled to be able to continue his legacy by helping other people with Parkinson's disease; especially since my dad has been gone, it has been eight years now.  It has been really gratifying in the face of something kind of ugly and tragic, mainly my father's diagnosis.  Then about ten years ago, our oldest son was diagnosed with autism.  What we found, among other things, is that autism is pretty much unaffordable, much like Parkinson's.  It is not covered by insurances in most cases and we wanted to help families affected by autism as well.  So we have a dual mission.  We started with Parkinson's, but in effect, it is all about compassionate care.

Gary Barg:  You know your dad was in his mid-40s when he was diagnosed, but he continued to work actively for almost 20 years.  Do you think that remaining active was healthy and helpful?

Holly Robinson Peete:  Oh, I think it definitely kept him going.  I have nobody else to thank but Bill Cosby who really  could have let my father go on the grounds that it was just a physical grind for him to suffer from Parkinson's and keep up the schedule of a comedy writer.  Mr. Cosby kept my father employed and I think that just kept the spark, the fire burning in him. Now, every time I see Mr. Cosby, I always tell him, “Thank you so much; you just gave him such a great ending and he felt such a sense of self-worth.” Mr. Cosby always says, “Listen, I was not doing him any favors.  He was the funniest writer we had.”  That always makes me smile. 

Gary Barg: What does the Compassionate Care Program do for people living with Parkinson's and their caregivers?


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