Three years ago, Nicole Ari Parker and husband Boris Kodjoe became proud parents to their first born, Sophie Tei. It was then, the couple disclosed recently in an e-mail circulated to family and friends, that the former "Soul Food" stars learned that their daughter was born with spina bifida, a common neural tube birth defect that affects the brain and/or spine in an average of eight babies a day.
In the e-mail, the couple asks family and friends for donations in hopes of raising nearly $2 million for a special surgical study that could lead to a cure of the condition for their daughter and nine other children.
According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, earlier this year during his run in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof," Kodjoe participated in "Broadway Bound to See Boris Kodjoe," a charity cause to benefit the Spina Bifida Association of Georgia.
Since Sophie's birth, Parker and Kodjoe, who are also the parents of 1-year-old Nicolas, have cared for their daughter around the clock. Although Sophie doesn't suffer from more severe symptoms of spina bifida such as quadriplegia, a neurogenic bladder, brain damage or spinal injury, she does require special assistance as a result of an abnormal bladder.
Folic acid, according to the Mayo Clinic, plays an essential role in a baby's development. When taken in supplement form at least one month before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy, folic acid greatly reduces the risk of spina bifida and other neural tube defects.
Foods containing a good source of folic acid include whole-wheat products, strawberries, cantaloupes, oranges, eggs, beans, sunflower seeds and asparagus.
Raising a child with special needs is no small feat, but Nicole and Boris are "blessed with a miracle child" and committed to providing their daughter with the best love and care. "My wife and I had to choose our kids and each other first," Kodjoe told ESSENCE.com recently. "Everything else is secondary to what your family gives you. And let me tell you that love makes you feel invincible, and that's where your everyday joy and daily blessings come from. Once you make that choice, everything else will come, because you exude an energy of peace and comfort, so that's the energy that will come back to you."
For more information about Spina Bifida and to donate funds visit www.boris-world.com/spina_bifida.html