“…and the female of the species is more deadly than the male…”—Rudyard Kipling

I don’t know about the “deadly” part, but I have been fortunate indeed to have worked with a great many strong women: Gloria, of course, who brightens my life every day with her power and wisdom; Karen Miner, whose endless willingness to work is a continual nudge to anyone tempted to get lazy; and my sister Patty, gone now, but an early pioneer in the computer science field, and a person who could always find the good in every one.

Today, I would like to give a small shout-out to three dedicated advocates: film-maker Jessica Gerstle, martial artist Jennifer Longdon, and Rayilyn Lee, fighter extraordinaire.

The movie-maker first: here is your official invitation from Jessica Gerstle.

One Night Only!

A special screening of
The Accidental Advocate
Thursday, January 15, 2009
@ 7 PM
Embarcadero Cinema
One Embarcadero Center
San Francisco, CA

After a bicycle accident left Dr. Claude Gerstle paralyzed from the neck down, he and his daughter Jessica discover hope in stem cell research. The Accidental Advocate is a wheelchair odyssey of a father and daughter tracking down the leading stem cell scientists, politicians, crusaders and nay-sayers, in order to understand the promise of stem cell research and why a political quagmire is stalling a cure.

The Director of the film will be in attendance for a Q&A after the screening.

The Film premiered at the Democratic and Republican Conventions as part of the Impact Film Festival. You can read more about the film at

*Tickets will be available through the theatre website after January 5th

Dear Don,
Happy Holidays!
I have organized a roll out of The Accidental Advocate, my documentary about the stem cell debate, which I am calling “One Night Only!”

This January, for One Night Only, The Accidental Advocate will be shown in theaters across the country and at rehabilitation hospitals. As you know, President-elect Obama has indicated that advancing stem cell research will be a priority for his Administration, and we expect him to act quickly through an Executive Order and Congressional legislation after the inauguration. But this does not inform the public about the issues and will certainly re-ignite the controversy. The Accidental Advocate’s nationwide coordinated screening is timed to engage audiences and policymakers to support effective stem cell policy, and to pre-emptively refute the opposition’s inflammatory rhetoric and attempts to confuse the public.

Showing the film in 15 cities at once will add to the informed debate about this country’s emerging healthcare crisis and the future of regenerative medicine. My goal is to pack the theaters with politically intelligent audiences including patient advocates, scientists, politicians, researchers, doctors, and religious leaders, who are familiar with grassroots advocacy and the stem cell debate. Please share this announcement with the local chapters of disease organizations like JDRF, ALZ, PAN or Hadassah or research and medical hospitals that would send out the press release and invite. The national headquarters have already put me in touch with many of the chapter presidents.

The kick off screening will be on January 12th in Washington D.C. followed by a discussion panel which I will videotape and make available to host on the web. Most of the other screenings will be on the same night, January 14th, 2009 at 7pm. The other cities are: Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Houston, LA, Minneapolis, St. Louis, San Diego, Santa Fe, Seattle, Washington D.C.

Given the current economic climate, I am not asking for a donation to help us put on the event, but tickets for the screening will be $10, and will go towards the costs of the screening. The tickets will be purchased directly through the Landmark Theatre website and at the box office after January 5th.

I hope you will be able to help me publicize the screenings. Let me also know if you can help me reach out to press contacts to build interest in this event. I can provide a press kit after the holidays, but would like to begin the process of identifying solid press leads: TV, newspaper and online. From now until January 5, I am trying to get organizations to put a notification about the upcoming event on the homepage of their website and/or under the events tab. Feel free to put up the notification on your Facebook, MySpace or blog.

On January 5, advanced tickets can be purchased through the link on my website: and on the Landmark Theatres site. I will have a press release and new launch of my website with a trailer. On January 12th, we will be having a screening and panel discussion in Washington, D.C. to kick-off the week and draw in the media.

Please feel free to send out the flyer. There is a short synopsis for you at the end of the e-mail and you can read a recent review: or you can visit the website:

Jessica Gerstle

When Claude Gerstle, a surgeon and athlete, suffers a tragic bicycle accident that leaves him paralyzed from the neck down, he and his daughter, Jessica, discover hope in the politicized area of science called stem cells. “The Accidental Advocate” is a wheelchair odyssey of a father and daughter who track down the thinkers, the politicians, the crusaders and the naysayers in an effort to understand the promise and potential of the science and why a political quagmire is stalling a cure. By way of background, Jessica was at NBC News for 12 years, mostly producing for Dateline NBC and left the network three years ago to independently produce this documentary. She employed her dad as her correspondent and they traveled the country to meet “A” list scientists driving the research and interviewed everyone from Dr. Jamie Thomson to Michael J. Fox to Arnold Schwarzenegger. They spent time interviewing politicians on both sides of the aisle and went right into the East Room of the White House. The film premiered at the Democratic and Republican Conventions as part of the Impact Film Festival.

Our second woman warrior is Jennifer Longdon. A black belt practitioner of Tae Quan Do, Jennifer became paralyzed after being shot in the back by an unknown assailant.

Despite major health problems associated with paralysis (I was seriously afraid we were going to lose her, earlier this year) she has fought back to the advocates’ field of engagement—the endless struggle to raise funds for research for cure, in this case, the Reeve-Irvine Research Center.

Here is a letter from Jennifer about her latest adventure—complete with a press release about another martial artist, her teacher, volunteering to do a 13.1 mile wheelchair marathon with her, although he is able-bodied—check it out.

Dear Friends,

A year ago I began a fundraising effort to personally raise $1,000 for spinal cord injury research. I challenged 10 friends to do the same. We’ve had varying levels of success.

First, thanks to those who elected to participate. Thank you to all who contributed and very special thanks to Susan & David, Kumar, Marty and Richard for reaching the goal with individual pledges. My own efforts have fallen short due in large part to a very serious illness this past spring that nearly took my life. I am fully recovered and back on track.

On January 18, 2009 I will push my first half-marathon (the PF Chang Rock and Roll Marathon), all 13.1 miles of it. It’s hard to believe that just 4 months ago, I could not push to the mail box and a trip around the block was impossible.

So I am begging for sponsors. Will you consider pledging? And, if you act now, I’ll give you the 1/10th of a mile gratis.  $5 per mile is just $65. $10 a mile is fantastic! “Flat” pledges of any amount ($25, $50, $75 or MORE) are also welcome. I am grateful for whatever you can pledge.

This has been a year of great victories and deep loss. Just days ago, another friend died a death he would not have faced if not for his spinal cord injury. The shock and grief have been a mental setback. I’ll be racing for those like Patrick who have alternatively pushed me and held me up when I could not.

Every dollar raised will go directly to the researchers at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center who work to treat and cure a host of neuro-degenerative disorders. There have been great strides made since my visit to the lab almost a year ago. I am more confident than ever that we’re on the right track.

I’ll even be so bold to say that I believe that the next 18 months will see the start of human clinical trials and breath-taking announcements as we move closer and closer to a treatment for neuro-degenerative disorders including spinal cord injury.

To contribute, either e-mail me with your pledge challenge or make a contribution here. I’ll update you on my results ASAP following the race on January 18th.

Contact Sr. Master Mark Kaup-Lee FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Jennifer Longdon

Area Martial Artist Sits Down For Those Who Cannot Stand Up.

Accepting the challenge of a student, Sr. Master Mark Kaup-Lee will compete in the PF Chang Rock N Roll Half Marathon in a wheelchair. A 7th degree black belt and owner of 5 area martial arts academies, Kaup-Lee was challenged by his student, Jennifer Longdon, herself paralyzed, to complete the 13.1 mile race as she will; in a wheel chair.

The pair will raise money for spinal cord injury research. Longdon, an area martial artist and student of Kaup-Lee’s sustained her spinal cord injury more than four years ago in a still-unsolved shooting. Longdon was riding in a vehicle driven by her then-fiancé, David Rueckert, when the pair was shot multiple times by an unknown assailant. Rueckert was shot in the head; Longdon was shot in the back.

Kaup-Lee was helping Longdon with her training when she groused “You think it’s so easy? You strap 50 pounds to your back and race 13 miles on your hands.” Kaup-Lee in that instant agreed. “It’s not the same for me.” Kaup-Lee explains “I have control of my balance and core muscles in a way that a paraplegic like Ms. Longdon does not. But it’s still pretty challenging.” Kaup-Lee’s first taste of the difficulty faced by those with spinal cord injuries came when he was training with Longdon one morning. “He flew up a hill while I chugged along behind. When he reached the top I told him to try it again without using his abs. It was a little more challenging the second time.” Longdon teased.

While wheel chair competitors are not, in themselves, new or noteworthy; Kaup-Lee and Longdon will not participate in the racing chair division but in the standard division. “We’ll be using regular wheelchairs weighing between 40 and 50 pounds instead of the lighter racing chairs.” Kaup-Lee explains. “Ms. Longdon cannot get in and out of the racing chair any more without assistance.”

The pair hopes to each raise $2,500 for the Reeve Irvine Research Center. Donations can be made through, or or checks made payable to Research for Cure may be sent to Lee’s Black Belt Academy, 715 W Baseline Rd Tempe, AZ 85283. Note “Lee” or “Longdon” in the memo.

And last but never least, please say hello to one of advocacy’s most dedicated fighters, Rayilin “Ray” Lee.

Have you ever read an article on line that just infuriated you? Nowadays, many articles contain comment lines, so you can respond—but that takes effort and time, and most of us leave it to somebody else.

Not Ray. Despite having a life-and-death personal battle with Parkinson’s, she takes the time to make a difference. For example: whenever I have asked readers of this column to write a letter or email to a Senator to support stem cell research, a favor I ask far too many times—I know most people will be too busy to actually respond, if I get one out ten, that is a lot, probably the best I can hope for—but always, always, Ray comes through. I know she does, because she emails me a copy of her letter.

She also answers negative attacks on the field, as below, when someone opposed our research on religious grounds, in a long letter saying among other things that scientists were ”playing God” with human lives. First, the opposition viewpoint, (which gently puts supporters of research in the company of Nazis, and suggests our afterlife destination):

“No human being ever developed from anything other than a human embryo. No human embryo ever developed into anything other than a human being. Therefore, does it matter where in its development stage we define “life” since whenever we eliminate the embryo we have definitively eliminated the human being into which it would have developed? Whether it is worth the cost of one human life to prolong the life of another should be left up to the person whose life is thus to be eliminated. And that means one had better wait a bit.

“And if one decides to go down the road of “that life is not/will not be worth living” as justification for using the embryo as a source for what could truly be miracle cures, one will find it is not so much a road as a slippery slope, at the bottom of which is eugenics in the finest traditions of Nazi ideology. You know what they say about the road to hell …” (emphasis added).

To which Ray responded:

“Blastocysts are not people.

You say, “whenever we eliminate the embryo we have definitively eliminated the human being into which it would have developed? Whether it is worth the cost of one human life to prolong the life of another should be left up to the person whose life is thus to be eliminated…”

Those of us who support embryonic stem cell research do not believe a blastocyst is a person any more than an acorn is an oak tree. Every seed does not become a plant nor does every blastocyst become a person unless the conditions of implantation and successful development until live birth occur are met. Not all seeds sprout. You cannot “ask” a blastocyst whether it is worth using it for research because it is a few microscopic undifferentiated human cells that, will NEVER, if left alone in a petri dish become anything.

What you are doing is protecting cellular human life – seeds – at the expense of actual persons whose lives have been destroyed by disease or injury and are not asking that their lives be “prolonged” but made bearable.

I can’t think of anyone who would favor destroying people for research. But cells are not people. They are potential life. ALL cells are, not just germ cells.

Are scientists playing “God” by manipulating cells? … many people believe God gave man the gift of intelligence to heal suffering…

I would suggest that if you oppose life saving research you rely solely on prayer and let the rest of us have the benefits of science.

–Rayilyn Brown
Director AZNPF
Arizona Chapter National Parkinson Foundation

Three women. Three warriors. Three friends.

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