Filling Superman's Shoes

Billauer has never stopped surfing, although now he surfs on his stomach using a specially designed Al Merrick board. He has also competed with the pros during expression sessions. This past weekend, he and Bethany Hamilton, the teenager who lost her arm in a shark attack, competed on opposite teams during an expression session.

He is also well-known in celebrity circles, which helps him raise money for the foundation.

"I was sad when I heard Christopher Reeve had died," Billauer said. "He was doing a big part in raising money and he was a famous face. I hope I can continue his dream."

Reeve's celebrity brought both attention and funds to spinal cord research. From 1982 to 1984, the foundation contributed $8,745,451 to research, an average of $2.9 million a year. From Reeve's injury in 1995 to his death in 2004, the foundation contributed $49,125,602, an average of $5.5 million a year.

One of Life Rolls On's goals is to change the public's focus from Billauer to all people with spinal cord injuries.

"Life Rolls On is bigger than Jesse," said Jesse's brother Josh Billauer. "The whole goal is to make it so when people think of Life Rolls On they're just not thinking of Jesse. At this point there are so many other kids affected by spinal cord injury. The goal is to find a way to get all the kids involved."

Moving Forward

Trying to retrain the public to associate a foundation with more than a single face is something the Christopher Reeve Foundation is struggling with a year after its namesake's death. Today, CPRF launched a rebranding campaign with the new slogan, "Go Forward."

It is part of a strategy to maintain CPRF's funding and public presence.

"The question becomes who becomes the visionary when the visionary dies," said Maggie Goldberg, CPFR's vice president of public relations. "The answer is, we all do. The people living with paralysis and everyone he touched, we all carry the torch."

Goldberg said it was too early to tell if donations to the foundation would remain as high as in the past. While several people continue to advocate for spinal cord research, it is also too soon to tell if the quantity of people involved with be able to replicate the impact of Reeve.

"We have a big fight on our hands," said Henry Stifel, president of CPRF's board of directors. "Am I encouraged by tall these young people? Yes, absolutely. It's more examples of how Chris led by example.

"No one person is going to be able to wear all the hats that Christopher Reeve did," he added. "But if you coordinate your efforts, coordinate your method, you can achieve a lot."

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