Jul 15, 2019
By Laura Dupree
It’s challenging for him to button his shirt and cut his steak with a knife and fork, but this hasn’t stopped Kevin Reid from taking matters into his own hands.
The 43-year-old Napa man – of Reid Family Vineyards – was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when he was just 27 years old; a time when many are in the prime of their lives.
In the beginning, he said he experienced the emotional component of the disease, where he got angry and questioned why it was happening to him. Then he decided to use what he’s learned from his own trials and tribulations, to help others stricken with MS.
Six years ago, Reid and a woman by the name of Julie Hare, who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2009, co-founded “Crush MS Summer Celebration and Symposium,” a fund-raising event that since its inception has raised over $400,000 for MS research and related programs.
“I have had those feelings of ‘why is this happening’ and ‘this isn’t normal,’ but I try not to dwell on that part of it, because the body is one thing and our mind/emotions are something different,” Reid said. “My body has things that are broken in it … these molecules that are not working properly somehow. But, the body is different than the mind and spirit, so I try to maintain a positive outlook by using things like meditation, positive thoughts and affirmations,” said Reid, who is now confined to a wheelchair.
Asked what it is like living with MS, he said: “There are all kinds of components … There’s the physical, the mental/emotional, the societal and then there’s the pragmatic – the everyday simple things like taking a shower or preparing a meal, which can be daunting or even not possible sometimes, because of the disability. It can prevent you from moving and it slows you down/stops you from being able to do basic tasks or simple movements because it’s a disease of the central nervous system. All the nerves in your body can either slow or stop, depending on the level of nerve damage. “This is why all of these things happen; whether it’s the ability to walk or feed yourself using a fork and a knife.”
Reid has trouble with his fine motor skills – a common symptom of MS – and as a result, he not only struggles with cutting up certain foods, but says he also has trouble buttoning a shirt, and putting on socks and shoes is “pretty much an impossible” task for him.
“All these small things people do in life and take for granted. Invisible issues that people without MS don’t see. No one thinks about ‘Oh, I am going to cut this steak.’ In my case, my partner, Colleen, helps me so much every single day and I couldn’t appreciate her more and I don’t tell her enough,” he said.
As challenging as his life can be, Reid seems to have come to terms with the hand he has been dealt. “You can have an adversarial relationship with your disease, or you can have a peaceful relationship with it, which doesn’t mean you are happy with it, but you can reach a level of acceptance and surrender. Surrendering to what’s real. Surrendering doesn’t mean you give up. We still want to fight for the cure,” he said, noting, that is what he decided to do six years ago when he was introduced to Hare through an author who also has MS.
“Julie and I realized that we both have small family wineries, so we decided we should get together and do something. (Julie Hare and her husband, Steve, own Counter Punch Wines in Napa.) We thought, we have wineries; let’s invite other wineries and have a party to raise money for research,” Reid said.
“It’s a family business. My dad was a family doctor here in town. He had friends who were winemakers. He wasn’t really into wine at that point, but they made wine in the garage,” Reid said, referring to
his father and his winemaker friends. “Over the years they got better at it and eventually my dad plated a small vineyard on the property we had growing up.
“Prior to it becoming a vineyard, we raised llamas on it – we had (a business called) ‘Napa Valley Llamas.’ My dad originally bought one as a pack animal for camping trips; they’d carry all our stuff, so we didn’t have to carry backpacks. He bought one for the camping trips and then another and another and another and then he had all these lamas and turned it into a business,” he said, adding, “Llamas are all the rage right now, apparently.”
The Llama business eventually ended and relatively soon after, in 1992, Kevin’s parents planted grapes in the foothills of Mt. Veeder and Reid Family Vineyards was born. The estate in its early days was a prune ranch. While the prunes have been replaced with grapes, the original barn, dating back to the late 1800s, remains and has since been modified to serve as the winery tasting room.
Reid Family Vineyards grows Bordeaux varietals, as well as Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Viognier and produces about 400 cases of wine annually.
Kirk Reid, (Kevin’s father) makes the wine; his brother, Kenneth (aka Bay) works in the tasting room full time; Kevin handles the marketing and wine club; his my sister, Kyla, does the finances and his mother, Karen, does the graphic design on the wine labels. “She actually scanned a wine leaf to do our label and we named our wines after our family members,” Reid said.
“It’s truly a small family business that came about organically because we were all in other fields. We were all music majors in college,” he said, noting he taught choral music for about 10 years, but had to give up teaching when his MS symptoms made it too difficult for him to remain in a classroom environment.
“We did the party the first year (2014) and it was a smashing success. We had a lot of people who came out and had a great time,”
Reid said, noting, 20 wineries participated in the event, which is currently in its sixth year.
Festivities include live music, food, a raffle, and live and silent auctions. Auction items consist of everything from sports and music memorabilia to international vacations, artwork, wine and more. Proceeds from Crush MS go directly to MS research and MS-related programs, such as the MS Achievement Center at Dignity Health in Sacramento; the Stanford Neurology Clinic; UCSF Office of Research; the National Multiple Sclerosis Society; and Canine Companions – which trains dogs to help their handlers with opening handicapped doors, picking up dropped keys and things of that nature, according to Reid.
“A new study funded by the National MS Society has confirmed that nearly one million people are living with MS in the United States, more than twice the original estimate from a previous study,” according to information on the MS Society website. “The MS Society is doing amazing work locally and internationally, leading the drive for finding a cause and a cure,” Reid said.
Meanwhile, he and Hare are clearly doing their part as well. The team hopes to raise $100,000 from the proceeds of this year’s Crush MS.
An information session, presented by Multiple Sclerosis Achievement Center Director Brian Hutchinson, will take place from 2 to 3p.m. Then at 3 p.m., the wine tasting party starts.
For more information or to purchase tickets – $80 in advance, $100 at the door – visit crushms.org.
People with MS get a discount. Email Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org for a discount code.
Crush MS Summer Celebration and Symposium is powered by premiere sponsor Genentech, a biotechnology company.
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