Hallmark star Holly Robinson Peete reflects on 25 years of advocacy. (Image: Instagram/@hollyrpeete)

It’s been 25 years since actress and singer Holly Robinson Peete and her husband, former NFL player Rodney Peete, launched the HollyRod Foundation. In a star-studded Los Angeles evening, the Robinson Peete family celebrated the anniversary with friends and fellow advocates.

“All family business mode activated,” Robinson Peete wrote in an Instagram post the day of the event. “@hollyrodfdn is 25!!…Still processing EVERYTHING. It’s gonna take me a minute…The love.The sacrifice. The energy.The PHILANTHROPY….#fundraiser #autism #parkinsonsdisease #legacy #givingback”

The HollyRod Foundation

The Peetes founded their advocacy group in 1997, shortly after Holly’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. When their son was diagnosed with autism a few years later, they broadened the focus of the organization to include programs for people with autism and their families.

The HollyRod Foundation is dedicated to raising awareness and providing resources to families that have a loved one who has received an autism or Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis. According to the organization’s website, “We advocate for ethical treatment, inclusion and access to services and treatment of individuals living with autism or Parkinson’s Disease with the goal of empowering them to live their best lives.”

Lyriq Bent, Nik Sanchez, and Holly Robinson Peete in the Hallmark movie Our Christmas Journey. Sanchez recently starred in a movie for the Easterseals Disability Film Challenge. (Image: Hallmark Media)

During their annual DesignCare gala, they honored Nicole Ari Parker and Boris Kodjoe in an evening that featured the designs of Sergio Hudson.

The Peete family

Holly Robinson Peete made her first appearance on television at the age of 6, when she shared the screen with her father, Michael Robinson, the original Gordon on Sesame Street. She went on to star in shows such as 21 Jump Street and Hangin With Mr. Cooper.

In 1995, she married NFL quarterback Rodney Peete. The couple welcomed twins in 1997, daughter Ryan Elizabeth Peete and son Rodney Peete Jr. Their son Robinson Peete was born in 2022. Roman Peete arrived in 2005.

Reflections

In a recent interview with PopSugar, Robinson Peete recalled the first time she noticed that her son, RJ, was exhibiting atypical behavior.

“I started noticing that RJ, my son, was not playing alongside his sister right. I’m like, ‘Well maybe he just doesn’t want to be with her,’” she said. “But he was not doing parallel play; he was playing alone. He was looking at things, and turning lights on and off, and lining up his Thomas the Tank Engine trains and staring at the wheels. There were lots of signs, but I was just a rookie mom, so I didn’t know.”

Her pediatrician told her not to worry, but the differences became even more apparent when RJ started preschool. When he was finally given a formal diagnosis, Robinson Peete was given a list of things RJ would never be able to do.

“We were told he would never drive, never have meaningful employment,” she said. “And he just left in his car to go to Dodgers Stadium, where he works. For me now, watching him soar, watching him thrive, seeing him have friends, watching him have a whole baseball team who cares about him, watching him have purpose — it’s the greatest gift.”

To learn more about the HollyRod Foundation, visit their website here.

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