Saturday, December 3, 2022
Not Just Another Celebrity Charity Event: Holly Robinson-Peete and Tisha Campbell-Martin are Trailblazers in Advocacy for Autism
By By Shonassee Shaver
Published June 6, 2013

Holly Robinson-Peete posing for the camera after an informative discussion during the Media Roundtable.


Actors, Holly Robinson-Peete, Duane Martin, Tisha Campbell-Martin and Rodney Peete smile for the cameras. 

Actress, Holly Robinson-Peete and former professional NFL quarterback, Rodney Peete are founders of the HollyRod Foundation.  The power couple held a Media Roundtable Thursday, May 30, 2013 at Crustacean in Beverly Hills, CA.

The “down to earth” philanthropist discussed the prevalence of their foundation and its work for autism and Parkinson’s disease. The couple expressed the affects that autism and Parkinson’s disease has on the community. Inspired by her father, known for his character “Gordon” on Sesame Street was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 96. Her son RJ was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3. He is now 15 years old facing these struggles as an adolescent.  


It was a dose of reality for the couple, discussing their struggles with autism. Rodney Peete was vocal in his efforts to discuss how autism affects families and married couples. The divorce rate is high among couples who have autistic children, stating“Holly gave me a choice to get on board or leave”. I have to save my son” she said.

Rodney Peete, author of Not My Boy, discussed being in denial with his son’s autism. Rodney himself battled with the idea of his son having autism. “I was given the locker room advantage” said Rodney, who felt he had an upper hand in coaching his son in the realms of football. “My father was a coach.  I remember visiting locker rooms. I thought that I would coach him out of it”. Rodney’s ability to coach his son “out of it” failed. Rodney touched on a complex issue on how men have a hard time accepting their son’s bouts with autism. “I had to educate myself.  I was able to see the world through his eyes before there was no media coverage. Autism speaks to educate men with autistic sons” stated Rodney.

Holly and Rodney continue to fight the good fight as they not only advocate for their own son, but for others that share their struggle.  Holly and Rodney use media outlets to share their story to help others families dealing with autism.

Holly and Rodney are knocking down Hollywood’s door for media coverage and funding.   DesignCare, an organization for fundraising has helped raise money for the HollyRod Foundation for 15 years. DesignCare is known for its fashion shows and intimate concerts. The HollyRod Foundation and DesignCare are teaming up once again this summer to generate funding for the foundation.  R&B crooner Neyo and the “white hot” fashion designer, Rubin Singer are lending their talents to this great cause. This is not a usual celebrity charity event.   “People that come really connect to the cause, it is not another Beverly Hills room with a different chandelier” saids Ms. Robinson-Peete. DesignCare 2013 is set for this July in Malibu, CA.

Impressed with her advocacy for autism, Fuhu Inc., the creator of the nabi tablets honored Ms. Robinson-Peete as Brand Ambassador for the nabi products. She has used her celebrity and passion for autism to educate parents on the benefits of integrating a tablet into their children’s lives as a key tool for both learning and entertainment. Wanting to make a difference, Holly organized the company’s autism program, Inspire. This program helps families with autism. Jim Mitchell CEO of Fuhu Inc. raves how “Holly is helping families to survive autism, not so much to find a cure”. Both Holly and Jim are collaborating to create centers for autistic children where they can get therapy, haircuts and watch movies.

The HollyRod Foundation has created the Compassion Care program to provide medical, physical, and emotional support for those suffering with Parkinson’s disease and autism. The program is partnered with the Center for Parkinson’s Research and Movement Disorders at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California. This program is geared towards helping families who do not have insurance. “Families sometimes do not have gas to travel to treatment centers” said Dr. Mark F. Lew at the Center for Parkinson’s Research and Movement Disorders at USC.  Holly’s motivation behind this is to do what healthcare services refuse to do.  Holly stated, “Healthcare services often feel we’re lying about our child’s illness.  They think we are trying to milk them for money”.

Holly’s good friend and actress, Tisha Campbell-Martin was honored by the HollyRod Foundation on her commitment to autism. Tisha Campbell-Martin and actor, Duane Martin’s son was diagnosed with autism at 18 months. “The numbers keep spiraling” said Tisha. The CDC suggests that 1 in 88 children is diagnosed with autism and 1 in 54 cases are boys according to  Holly and Rodney’s advocacy for autism and their son inspired Tisha to create her own non-profit organization, Colored My Mind.  It brings awareness to autism.  “African American and Latino children are diagnosed 2 to 3 years after their Caucasian counterparts” said Tisha. She completed a documentary film, Colored My Mind emulating her family’s life with autism. Actors, Blair Underwood and Nicole Ari Parker acted out their experiences as Tisha narrated the experiences of their lives. Colored My Mind won best film documentary at the American Pavilion in Cannes, France. Interesting enough, Tisha’s cause not only reached Cannes, France, but sparked an interest in Washington, D.C. where a lobbyist saw the trailer for Colored My Mind and urged her to speak to Congress in 2011. Tisha Campbell-Martin and Grammy Award winner Chaka Khan went to Congress to reauthorize the Combating Autism Act of 2006, which was set to expire that year.  Not only was Tisha able to get the bill passed in one day, but rewrote the language of the bill stating that research, education and money should apply to all children regardless of demographics and socioeconomic backgrounds. Holly Robinson-Peete and Tisha Campbell-Martin are trailblazers in advocacy for autism.

Other celebrities in attendance were actress, Regina King, NBA player Matt Barnes from the Los Angeles Clippers with his wife Gloria Govan from the Vh1 reality TV show Basketball Wives Los Angeles. Tisha Campbell-Martin’s husband, actor Duane Martin was in attendance as well.

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