James Marsden, star of Enchanted, 27 Dresses and Hairspray, was honored with the Champion of Children Award on Tuesday evening at the TSA Awards Benefit in Beverly Hills put on by the Tourette Syndrome Association.
Acknowledging that Tourettes is very much an "each one, teach one" syndrome, Marsden readily acknowledged his longstanding close friend, Dash Mihok, as helping raise his awareness about the disorder. "I was really lucky because my friend, Dash, educated me about Tourette Syndrome," said Marsden. "To educate people, that's one of the biggest things, just to make sure everybody out there knows what it really is and what these children deal with and go through on a daily basis. It's hard enough just being a kid and trying to fit in but to deal with this on top of it... They don't choose to do this. [Tourette's] is not their choice. So it's heartbreaking to think that these kids are being teased and made fun of by kids their age."
This father of two, said that the HBO special on Tourette Syndrome produced a few years ago helped open his eyes to the issue and made him see that, "these kids are just normal kids that have this disorder and have to deal with it."
Marsden feels that the biggest help is to do, "anything you can do to promote research, promote awareness. Ignorance is such a tough thing to battle."
Dash Mihok, whose acting credits include I Am Legend, The Day After Tomorrow, The Perfect Storm, Romeo & Juliet among others, said that, "It's very important that we do show appreciation for those who go to work in raising awareness. You know, Tourette Syndrome is not well known. There's not a lot of government money and research in it. But people are dying inside every day because they're suffering with it and I think word needs to get out."
It is well-known that stress often triggers an outward expression of Tourette's. Mihok said that, "Acting is a stressful environment to put yourself into and stress triggers Tourette's but I think it's partly an outlet because when I'm acting I'm putting my mind, body and soul into something and that's one of the times during the day when I don't tic. I think acting is therapeutic for me."
Jeffrey Kramer, who founded the TSA Champion of Children Awards 10 years ago, shared that, "This is very personal. Two of my three sons have Tourette Syndrome. When they were diagnosed I realized I had Tourette Syndrome. And so I became an advocate. It's our responsibility to make life better for them and other children who suffer."
Kramer, a successful television producer, worked the issue of Tourette Syndrome into several of his TV series' storylines. "Nobody knew what Tourette Syndrome was. We did it on all of our shows - on Ally McBeal, on The Practice - and raised awareness in a big way I think."
He explained that a very small minority, less than 10% of people with Tourette's, shouts curse words and epithets and yet that became TV Tourettes, ". . . and everybody was doing it! It became sensational. We actually showed multi-layered Touretters, like they really are, and how we struggle with it because people judge us like crazy when we tic or shout things that aren't dirty words but we go "woo woo," things like that.
Tuesday's night's benefit dinner filled the Beverly Wilshire ballroom and raised enough money to continue significant research into the disorder. A Youth Ambassador Program is also well underway for student TS ambassadors who offer school in-services and community outreach for children and teens.
"A lot of talented people have some quirks, y'know? And bless them for that. I'd rather have Tourette's than be someone boring," commented Mihok, with his trademark winning grin.