Annette Funicello turns 70 today. Penny for your thoughts?Monday, October 22, 2012 by: Connie Carello
Today, October 22, famous Hollywood Actress, Annette Funicello turns 70.
A popular face, memorable for her appearance on the original Mickey Mouse Club, Funicello had several pop singles and landed a leading role in the film “Beach Party” in 1963.
However, at 37 years old Funicello was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis after experience balance problems during filming “Back to the Beach.”
Living with her husband Glen Holt in California, Funicello is incapable of movement and confined to a wheelchair.
“Her husband has been an amazing care-giver to her. He is always taking her out for walks. Especially at Christmas time when all the houses have decorations. This used to be something they would do together before so it certainly means a lot to her” Funicello’s publicist and friend of over twenty-five years, Lorraine Santoli said.
“Unfortunately, Funicello was diagnosed with progressive Multiple Sclerosis. In 1992 she realized she could no longer keep secret about her condition and decided to tell the public” Santoli said.
In an interview Funicello said "I think you only have two choices in this kind of situation. Either you give in to it or you fight it. I intend to fight."
To combat Multiple Sclerosis, Funicello decided to organize a research fund known as the “Annette Funicello Fund for Nerological Diseases.”
“The fund was something she was adamant about. Her husband Glen is the Chairman of the science review board responsible for the fund which is met with proposals on medical research. The board decides which cause to support to further research. All the donations received go directly to research because all those involved are volunteers, including board members” Santoli added.
Recently scientists have been led to believe that Chronic Cerebropinal Venous Insufficiency or CCVSI, a condition where blood from a major artery in the neck, pushes blood into the brain rather than circulating through the body, may be a cause of MS.
The controversial procedure which requires doctors to operate on this artery is one Funicello recently underwent with the hopes of alleviating symptoms.
Other than injections, which are intended to slow the progression of MS, the procedure is currently the only other treatment available and only in some areas of the United States and Europe.
There still remains no cure for Multiple Sclerosis.
“To commemorate Annette’s milestone birthday this year, we are doing a yearlong penny campaign. We want to emphasize the fact that every penny counts. Allowing people to donate their pocket change, they can make sure that every penny counts. We hope that this will fulfill Annette’s wish, her birthday wishes for the year” Santoli said.
Funicello’s fund crosses the border as it supports several research projects currently in progress in Canada, “We are sympathetic to the increase incidents that occur in Canada, especially in the Northern parts and really all over the world. The science review board provides research in Canada with several grants and we will be willing to explore other avenues of research to help end MS. We are not targeting a particular spot on the earth – we are open to everything” Santoli said.
On Monday the penny drive begins with the option for donors to post their thoughts and birthday messages for Funicello on a “Penny for your thoughts” message board