The fight to cure ALS got personal for Renée Zellweger, Jennifer Garner, Reese Witherspoon and other A-list celebrities when veteran publicist Nanci Ryder was diagnosed with the disease just over two years ago.
This Sunday, those stars and others, including Courteney Cox, came out to support the Walk to Defeat ALS in Los Angeles for the third time since Ryder, 64, went public with her diagnosis in 2014.
During her 30-year-plus career, Ryder represented numerous A-list clients — including Witherspoon, Zellweger, Michael J. Fox and Leonardo DiCaprio — as a founder of BWR Public Relations. She stepped down from the company in 2014.
Her 2014 diagnosis was precipitated by ongoing vocal issues, and as the neurological illness progressed, Ryder’s speech continued to deteriorate. By 2015, Ryder had lost her ability to speak and began using a gastrostomy feeding tube connected to her stomach to replace eating meals.
Within the past several weeks, the power publicist has gone from walking, to a walker, to a wheelchair as a result of balance issues related to ALS. Despite her physical limitations, Ryder has retained her trademark humor and sarcasm. “Her iPad is loaded with catchphrases, including some off-color ones,” Fred Fisher, President and CEO of the ALS Association Golden West Chapter tells PEOPLE. “She’s still having fun. She’s still poking people. She has a wicked sarcastic sense of humor and I really enjoy that.”
Hollywood power agent Bryan Lourd adds, “Nanci Ryder’s brain has a whole special super power that most of us just don’t have. She’s funny, and strong and the most persistent fighter for all good people and things. She’s loved by everyone who knows her and now by many who only know her story.”
Fisher explains that ALS is a disease of adaptation — meaning, you have no choice to adapt to whatever happens as you declines. “That’s why Nanci is so incredible. In the face of something must of us could never imagine living with she’s not just living with it, she’s thriving. That’s not unique to Nanci, but she exemplifies it.”
Fisher adds that Ryder’s dedication to turning her personal hardship into a solution for everyone “teaches all of us how to face our fears, confront our obstacles and keep our eyes firmly focused on making the world a better place. I feel privileged to know her.”
At Sunday’s walk, Cox told PEOPLE, “I’m just here because I love Nanci Ryder, and I would do anything for her, and I would do anything to help find a cure for this disease, and if we can get more awareness, more money, or just more support.”
“It’s wonderful that everyone comes out. It’s so nice that everybody whose career she has fostered, who she has given so much to, is here showing their love for her today. It’s an inspiring day,” Zellweger told PEOPLE at the event.
“You just show up,” Witherspoon echoed to PEOPLE. “We have an incredible group of organized people, so when Renée calls me I just show up, or when Courtney calls me we just rally. Nanci has a great team around her, a great group of people that she has done so much for over the years, and we just motivate each other and keep constantly in touch with each other. It’s been incredible to see how connected her friends are, and her friends are her family.”
Those friends have continued rallied to her side. Last year, more than 200 of Ryder’s friends, family and colleagues offered their support at the Walk to Defeat ALS in Los Angeles, propelling Team Nanci to first place by raising $141,893 for the Golden West Chapter of the ALS Association, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Cox, Witherspoon, Zellweger and Witherspoon’s CAA agent husband, Jim Toth were among her team captains.
Renee is a big fan and supporter of publicist Nanci Ryder. Unfortunately in 2014 it became known that Nanci suffers with ALS and since then Renee has stepped up to show her love for Nanci. This past weekend along with Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Garner, Courtney Cox and others she walked in the ALS Association Golden West Chapter Los Angeles County Walk To Defeat ALS. I have added images from this awesome event to the gallery.
To learn more about this illness and what you can do to help go to alsa.org.
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Chelsea Handler met up with actress Renée Zellweger on her Netflix-sponsored talk show to discuss the strange phenomenon of fame and the transitions the Bridget Jones actress faced as a result.
Zellweger rose to stardom after her breakout role in Cameron Crowe’s Jerry Maguire, in which she starred alongside Tom Cruise. Though nearly twenty years have passed since her initial star turn, the actress is still handling the fallout that comes with fame.
During the intimate sit down, the 47-year-old star discussed her odd relationship with her career, a self-deprecating dialogue that can be best described as “Impostor Syndrome.” “I’m not trained,” Zellweger said, “I feel like every job I kind of got by accident because I tricked them and they just haven’t found out yet, but inevitably they’re going to and they’re going to fire me.”
Handler was quick to point out that Zellweger has never seemed completely comfortable in the spotlight, to which the Texan actress agreed. “I really like the job,” Zellweger told Handler. “Fame is just weird to me. It’s not natural … You don’t have an opportunity to really meet people in a genuine way.
Zellweger admitted that fame is something one never quite acclimates to: “There’s a lot of things that happen, that change, when suddenly people recognize you on the street. You’re not born with the faculties to know how to navigate that immediately, you have to develop skills. I’m still developing those skills,” Zellweger said.
Watch the video above for the full interview—which includes insights into the issues surrounding female self-confidence and a look at Zellweger’s relationship with her family.
Defense attorney Richard Ramsay takes on a personal case when he swears to his widowed friend, Loretta Lassiter, that he will keep her son Mike out of prison. Charged with murdering his father, Mike initially confesses to the crime. But as the trial proceeds, chilling evidence about the kind of man that Boone Lassiter really was comes to light. While Ramsay uses the evidence to get his client acquitted, his new colleague Janelle tries to dig deeper – and begins to realize that the whole truth is something she alone can uncover.