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SOCIAL CLIMES

Thoroughly thoroughbred

August 03, 2003|Ann Conway | Times Staff Writer

Hundreds of moviegoers cheered for "Seabiscuit," but it was United Cerebral Palsy that was in the winner's circle after a benefit screening of the new flick at the Writers Guild Theatre in Beverly Hills.

Hosted by actor William H. Macy, national spokesman for UCP and a co-star of the film, the July 24 event raised more than $40,000 for housing and direct care for people with developmental disabilities.

"Cerebral palsy is not a disease -- you can't catch it," said Ron Cohen, executive director for UCP for Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. "Cerebral palsy is any injury to the developing brain. It can happen before birth or after birth.... It can happen when a child falls into a pool and is nearly drowned, or falls off of a bike."

Macy likened Seabiscuit, a horse whose "broken spirit" was healed by people who believed in him, to the purpose of UCP. "There are all of those out there with these injuries, and we need to give them a shot," he said.

Macy first learned about cerebral palsy when he played salesman Bill Porter in the Emmy-nominated film "Door to Door." "When it comes to this condition, what we're dealing with is prejudice, fear of the unknown," he said. "I had those prejudices when I met Bill -- his right arm is bent behind his back, and I didn't know how to greet him. But he put me at ease with a joke and a smile.

"He's one of the most heroic men I have ever known. And it occurred to me that there are about 500,000 people out there with CP, and unless we take the step to introduce ourselves, we're going to miss out on some magnificent people."

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