MINNEAPOLIS (KMSP) - Robin Williams endured pain, anxiety, insomnia, loss off reasoning and more in his last years. Ben Utecht started suffering memory loss while only 30 years old. But, both Ben Utecht and Susan Schneider Williams, the widow of Robin Williams, believe in hope for brain illness.
The pair is headlining the American Brain Foundation’s fundraiser, “Standing Strong: An Evening Benefiting Brain Disease Research” on Wednesday evening at U.S. Bank Stadium.
“To me, Robin was, he was the bravest man in the world playing the hardest role of his life,” Susan said when describing Robin’s battle with Parkinson’s disease and Lewy Body Dementia, or LBD. Robin was diagnosed with LBD after he died, and Susan believes the rare disease caused Robin to commit suicide.
“The person afflicted with LBD is very aware they’re losing their mind. So it’s sort of torture,” Susan said.
Ben Utechts’s five diagnosed concussions led to memory loss, which led to his decision to stop playing professional football. He is now an advocate for brain illness, and a singer. One of his songs is about his fear of losing the memory of his daughters.
“I chose to step out and be vulnerable in this position,” Utechts said, “Vulnerability equals connectivity, because it allows you to build trust with people.”
Utechts and Susan say they believe more research will lead to better treatment and, eventually, cures for brain illness. In the meantime, they said people suffering brain illnesses should not be ashamed for suffering illness beyond their control.
“Anyone who’s suffering with this, or knows somebody who is, all I can [say] is let your own principles guide you. And the truth really does set you free,” Susan said.
Tickets are still available for the “Standing Strong” fundraiser, on Wednesday from 6:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. in the Delta 360 Club at U.S. Bank Stadium. For tickets, visit americanbrainfoundation.org.