Nancy Davis is a woman on a mission, the Denver born Californian has dedicated her life to her children, husband, and making the world a better place. She is a jewelry and clothing designer, author, and she has spent the past few years dedicating her life to ﬁnding a cure for multiple sclerosis and helping those battling drug addiction. In 1991, at age 33, Nancy was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was facing the battle of her life. She was told by doctors that she would be lucky to retain the ability to merely operate a remote control on her television. However, she realized she was too young and had a lot more to do in her life.
In 1993 she founded Race to Erase MS, an organization dedicated to funding innovative and successful methods of eliminating Multiple Sclerosis and helping others. Her fundraising began with a gala held at an intimate ski getaway weekend in Aspen, Colorado. And since its inception, Race to Erase MS has grown into an annual celebrity beneﬁt that has gained the support of many key individuals in the entertainment and fashion industries, and to date, the Race to Erase MS has raised over $50 million for multiple sclerosis research. Her fundraising eﬀorts have made a huge impact on the ﬁght to combat the illness. When Nancy ﬁrst started her journey, there was no known cure or drugs on the market to treat individuals suﬀering from multiple sclerosis. Her foundation has funded scientiﬁc discoveries and in March of 2017 it was critical in the development of Ocrevus, the ﬁfteenth drug to receive FDA approval. Today there are now 23 FDA approved drugs designed to stop the progression of MS, and there are many more treatments being developed every day.
Nancy’s work has gained the attention of notable people. In 2002 she held the “Race to Erase” Gala with Tommy Hilﬁger. As a thank you gift to performers of the event Natalie Cole, Donna Summer and Sela Ward were given necklaces bearing a powerful symbol. The event was a success and sparked the creation of Peace & Love Jewelry by Nancy Davis. As Chief Designer of Peace and Love, her iconic pieces are worn by the likes of Halle Berry, Brooke Shields, Nicole Richie, Paris and Nicky Hilton, Sharon and Kelly Osborne, and Avril Lavigne, Tommy Hilﬁger, Bill Maher, Don Henley and Elton John among others.
Another meaningful cause that is dear to Nancy’s heart is Cure Addiction Now (CAN). This organization is dedicated to the understanding, treatment and cure of drug addiction. This organization works to remove the stigma of the disease while linking together multidisciplinary scientiﬁc and medical expertise to advance the understanding of the causes of addiction. The organization works with medical professionals from Mount Sinai, Harvard, UCLA, Scripps, University of Washington and Johns Hopkins.
Impact Wealth recently sat down with Nancy Davis to discuss her endeavors with her various organizations and why they are of particular importance to her and encompass her life’s work.
Impact Wealth: Please take us back to the beginning, when your life changed and you knew that things would never be the same.
Nancy Davis: When I was diagnosed with MS there was no known cause, cure, drugs on the market, and there was very little hope for those diagnosed with the illness. I was told by medical professionals “you
have an impossible disease, just go home and go to bed.” I couldn’t believe it! I replied “What do you mean go to bed? How long should I do that for a few days? For a week? What’s going on?” And they said “Forever, If you’re lucky you’re most likely going to be able to operate a remote control for a TV set from now on, and that is it.”
I thought “Oh, my God, I’m 33 and this is not exactly what I had planned for my life.” I had three young sons, and I was in the prime of my life, so naturally I was in denial. I didn’t want my children to have to take care of me. I needed a second opinion and I saw many prestigious specialists and they were all doing the same type of research and telling me the same exact thing. I knew that I needed to put together the best and the brightest and get them to work as a team, this way I could ensure that there was a group of brilliant people who were able to develop innovative and unique research. I needed a dream team to come up with a cure quickly, this way I could save people’s lives. After this, I created Center Without Walls which was funded by my organization, the Race to Erase MS.
We’ve found that 90% of every medical study ends up with a negative result. But out of every bad study, you learn a lot of good, you learn what doesn’t work and what does. There is a lot of experimentation and there are so many variables. Today we have something called the Center without Walls, and eight of the best MS researchers in the country. We recently got FDA approval for our 22nd drug for MS. There were zero when we started. Today, a person being diagnosed with MS has a much brighter future.
Impact Wealth: Do you think that there is a lot of misinformation being spread in regards to MS?
Nancy Davis: I think so and I was fortunate enough to get diagnosed pretty quickly. One day I had a ski accident and each day I noticed that I was losing a diﬀerent feeling and a diﬀerent sensation in my body and at the time MRIs were not as sophisticated as they are today. Today you can have an MRI and know within an hour or two if there is something concerning going on. Many people are misdiagnosed as having lupus, and there are a lot of diseases that kind of cross over each other. It can become a bit messy.
Impact Wealth: Since you started this journey what have been some of your biggest milestones?
Nancy Davis: I would say that getting FDA approval on our ﬁrst drug was the greatest thing we have ever achieved. Everyone told me that this research was ridiculous and that we would never get there. But we did it. Not only did we succeed but there are 22 drugs on the market today which is amazing. At the time we were told that there weren’t enough people with the disease for pharmaceutical companies to care about treating it. Fast forward to today and there are companies heavily invested in developing drugs and making billions of dollars.
Impact Wealth: Do you think that there are non-pharmaceutical treatments available that help treat the illness?
Nancy Davis: Yes, absolutely. I have been going to a homeopathic doctor. And whenever I have an MS attack he ﬁnds out what my body is deﬁcient in and gives me drops that counteract it. Even during COVID I found it to be amazing how these treatments have helped me tremendously.
Impact Wealth: What other kind of philanthropic endeavors are you spearheading?
Nancy: I just started an organization called Cure Addiction Now (CAN). I had a son who unfortunately passed away at the beginning of COVID, I loved him more than life itself. He was struggling with his addiction on and oﬀ for twelve years. He always helped me with my MS foundation because he didn’t want his mommy to be sick. I feel that when it comes to addiction there is so much shame that exists and people don’t really care about helping addicts. They look at them negatively and as bad people. I believe that everyone deserves to be loved, embraced, and supported. My son was passionate about ﬁnding medications or treatments that would help addicts to have an easier time getting sober and staying sober. People aren’t putting money into researching addiction and sadly people die every 90 seconds from an opioid overdose. It’s horrible.
Now fentanyl is being laced into many drugs that people take, and people have no idea that they are taking it. There is one overdose of fentanyl every six minutes in our country.
Many people are genetically predisposed to addiction, and we are working on developing medicine to address this. So far, we have funded nine studies, one of our studies is got published which is really exciting.
Impact Wealth: Do you feel like this is a silent disease?
Nancy Davis: It involves mental health and also addiction. We can’t cure addiction without addressing the mental health component, they go hand and hand. People also shun individuals suﬀering from addiction. For example, if I were to call a friend today and tell them that I was diagnosed with breast cancer, that friend, I’m sure would say “I am going to send you ﬂowers or cake and I will take you to all of your doctor appointments”. However, if I called someone today and told them that I have an addiction problem, they would say “go get help” and they wouldn’t want to be around me, and they would fear me on some level. A lot of what I do is educate people about addiction and teach them how important it is to embrace those who suﬀer from it.
Impact Wealth: As a parent what type of advice would you give to parents who have children suﬀering from addiction?
Nancy Davis: I think people need to keep their eyes open and they shouldn’t brush things under the rug. Don’t say “oh it’ll go away”. Be mindful of which medications and how much alcohol and other drugs you keep in your home. You must be proactive and try to get your child to be honest with you and tell you what’s going on.
Impact Wealth: How important do you think it is to train the next generation on philanthropy? And how did you do that with your children?
Nancy Davis: I have twin daughters who are 17 and they are very involved. Obviously, their brother passing away was the worst thing that could have ever happened to them, so they started their own charity. And they just ﬁlmed a PSA which will be going out very soon. They also talk about using Narcan. A lot of kids are afraid to call 911 If they see somebody passed out at a party because they think they will get in trouble. Once you have overdosed you have four minutes before you are brain dead and 6 minutes until you are dead. It takes an average of 10 minutes for an ambulance to show up once you call 911.
Narcan is a spray and if someone overdoses from an opiate you spray it up their nose and you can save their life. It is a miracle that this exists. However, many people do not know about it or where it’s available. Right now in California, you have to get a prescription from a doctor and it costs around $55. In other places I’ve heard they give it away for free. Narcan should be in every house, it should be in every Uber car. My daughter just ﬁlmed something with Narcan. It’s really important. It’s from their point of view, they are devastated that they lost their brother, he was the light of everyone’s life. He was so funny,so much fun and talented. He died at the beginning of COVID two years ago of a double pulmonary embolism, which is caused by a blood clot in your leg that goes up to your lungs and cuts your breathing oﬀ in the middle of the night. He had been sober for nine months at that point.
Impact Wealth: What do you think caused the blood clot?
Nancy Davis: I really believe he was one of the ﬁrst people with COVID. That particular weekend I was away with my daughter skiing in Aspen and my husband was with him and he said he was very sick. He was sick to his stomach. He had a bad cold, and this was around February 16th. Two weeks later, the world shutdown but they were not able to diagnose COVID at that time. I am not 100% sure because they couldn’t diagnose it, but he deﬁnitely died of the double pulmonary embolism, and you have to factor in years of drug abuse.
Impact Wealth: Besides your charities, what other projects are you working on?
Nancy Davis: I’m in the middle of writing my book, which should be out in the next six months called “Just One More Day”. And I hope that will help other people going through grief as I was just so devastated. My son Jason was a screenwriter. When he was 12 years old he was in a movie with Chris Farley called Beverly Hills Ninja. We couldn’t believe it when Chris died. My son wrote this amazing script in honor of Chris called “Just One More Day” when he was 12 that was optioned at the time for a TV movie of the week. It was never made but the story was so unique. Writing my book has been very cathartic and thought if I could have him back for one day, how would I spend it? And the book just started writing itself. I would do anything in the world have Jason back for One More Day.