A pair of Henderson high school seniors will be on the Katie Couric show today with their icon, actor Michael J. Fox, airing locally at 2 p.m. on KVVU-TV, Channel 5.
Their road to the New York City set wasn’t planned but nevertheless started four years ago when Ryan Popowcer, a Liberty High School senior, first saw “Family Ties,” the 1980s sitcom that kickstarted Fox’s career.
“It’s the only show I connected with like that,” said Popowcer, surprised he’d like a show that ended years before he was born. “He’s why I want to be an actor.”
In January, Popowcer quit baseball to take acting classes, which he will continue in college next year.
His friend, Joseph Maurer, also became enamored of the show and Fox’s energetic character, a young Republican who carried a briefcase to high school and wore a suit and tie.
But they’re appearing on the Couric show not because they’re Fox fans, but because they’re philanthropists.
After the teens swept through all seven seasons of the sitcom, they moved on to Fox’s movies. The lesser known “The Secret of My Success” is Popowcer’s favorite while Maurer prefers the classic “Back to the Future.”
They noticed Fox’s career trailing off in the early 2000s and looked into why. He’d been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system.
“I didn’t know what Parkinson’s was,” said Popowcer, who saw an interview on YouTube where Fox struggled to talk through the twitching and tremors. “It was hard to watch.”
Popwcer decided to join The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research three years ago.
The boys then started fundraising on their own, which was a struggle at first because people thought they were teens pulling a scam, Maurer said. Friends and family donated $1,000 but they had bigger plans for a benefit concert or fundraising event and finally settled on a silent auction. It was held Oct. 20 at Sunrise Café, near Eastern Avenue and Highway 215, raising $2,000.
Couric’s producers discovered the fundraising duo when the View, a zoned neighborhood publication of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, did a story on the Liberty students in October.
The producers for “Katie” called Popowcer on Saturday to relay the good news. He and Maurer would be flying to New York at 7 a.m. today . The best part – Fox would be on the show discussing his foundation that strives to find a cure for the 5 million people worldwide with the disease. Since its inception in 2001, the organization has raised more than $289 million.
“They said, ‘Don’t freak out. You’re going to be on the Kate Couric show,’ ” Popowcer said. “I freaked out.”
Maurer wasn’t nervous, at first.
“My parents keep putting these possible scenarios in my head though,” he said. “All my teachers are freaking out about it.”
But Maurer and Popowcer agreed long before the attention that they’d continue their efforts every year.
“It’s my way of saying thanks, I guess,” said Popowcer, who is grateful to Fox for giving him a passion for acting.
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at
email@example.com or 702-383-0279.