The good vibes generated at last week’s continued Saturday when actor Colin Farrell was honored for his work with the organization.
gave Farrell its first American Giving Award Leadership Award for the to the organization, chaired by Darien’s Paula Evans.
four years ago to raise awareness and funding for research into Angelman syndrome (AS), which is characterized by impaired speech and movement. Ainsley, Evans’ 7-year-old daughter, was born with AS.
The American Giving Awards, which aired Saturday on NBC, recognized grassroots organizations through a Facebook contest that culminated in the distribution of $2 million worth of grants.
Suicide-prevention group To Write Love on Her Arms took the top prize of $1 million. The other finalists were Let’s Get Ready; Matthew Shepard Foundation; Wish Upon a Hero Foundation; and Move for Hunger.
Actor Donald Sutherland presented the leadership award to Farrell, noting his work with the Make-A-Wish Foundation and the Special Olympics, as well as his efforts to fight hunger and homophobic bullying.
“But of all the causes that the wonderful Colin Farrell is involved in, there is one that is personal. There is one that has a special meaning above all others,” Sutherland said.
Farrell’s 8-year-old son, James, has AS. Doctors diagnosed James with the rare genetic syndrome when at around 7 or 8 months old he began missing typical milestones, such as sitting or crawling, Farrell said.
“For parents, it’s a huge thing, the first step. All parents talk about it,” he said. “So imagine that you’re told your child may never walk. Try those first steps on for size. It’s a world rocker. I just wept.”
An intensely private man, Farrell for years kept James’ condition a secret.
That changed, however, when he realized the power he had to bring awareness to the little-known syndrome.
“(Parents of children with AS) are enormously grateful to him for speaking publicly, sharing James with the world in a very personal way, because every time Colin does that it helps their child,” Evans said in a taped segment that aired during the awards show.
Each time Farrell mentions AS on a talk show, he said FAST’s website, cureangelman.org, gets a few thousand more hits. At the gala last weekend, Evans said her email inbox lit up with donations to FAST after Farrell spoke about AS on the Late Show with David Letterman last summer.
Farrell dedicated the leadership award to James’ mother, as well as all other parents of children with AS.
“If I had a hat, I’d just take it off for all those parents,” he said.