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After her husband’s Parkinson’s diagnosis, she invented a product to improve the lives of millions

Photo of the Hortons with Russell Wilson

Maura Horton has always been her husband’s cheerleader.

Don Horton, a career college football coach, spent at most of his career at Boston College where he coached the offensive line. Maura had a background in children’s clothing design but took time off from her career to raise their two children. As a football family, Maura says they have always “celebrated all our successes and losses together.”

But after Don was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a chronic and progressive movement disorder, in his 40’s, Maura found herself feeling helpless in the face of his degenerative disease’s affects. So she has stepped into a new role—one that she never imagined for herself: Founder and CEO of MagnaReady, which makes adaptive clothing for people who struggle with fine motor skills. People like her husband.

[Related: This couple’s extraordinary response to an ALS diagnosis]

When Don came home after a football game and told Maura that he had been unable to button his own shirt in the locker room and had to have one of his players, Russell Wilson, close the shirt for him, Maura says she could tell by the tone in her husband’s voice that they had reached a new stage in the disease’s progression.

“I don’t think you ever forget the tone of someone when they’ve lost something significant,” she explains.

Maura quickly ordered adaptive shirts online but when they arrived was disappointed in their technology and style. She realized that she could make a better shirt than was currently offered for sale, and that it would likely have a significant impact on her husband’s self-esteem. That moment was a catalyst for her: Maura says it was then that she finally had a clear vision of how she could help improve their situation, and a specific way to retain some control in the face of a disease they couldn’t stop.

“Because of my background in clothing design, I thought ‘I could tackle that,'” she explains. Maura Horton was now a woman on a mission.

The experienced clothing designer then began prototyping shirts that hid magnets beneath the buttons to allow people who struggle with fine motor skills to dress themselves. After developing a design that was able to easily snap together but appears indistinguishable from standard dress shirts, the MagnaReady product line was born. Maura is now the company’s CEO and helping to oversee the marketing and distribution of their growing product line.

Don explains that as someone who has been active and worked in athletics, for so long “it has been hard for me to be vulnerable.” And Maura notes that for so many like Don, “dressing is such an intimate moment” so helping people retain a sense of dignity and independence in that aspect of their lives can be profoundly empowering.

The market opportunity for MagnaReady is huge: With Baby Boomers fast becoming senior citizens, the current market for adaptive clothing is growing, and includes those suffering from arthritis, children with special needs, stroke and dementia patients and wounded warriors. Her company just signed a deal with a leading dress shirt manufacturer.

But on the homefront, she says, “scary things are ahead.”

Still, developing MagnaRady has helped the Hortons to feel more deeply connected to the millions of American families living with disability, an experience Maura says “is a blessing in many ways but is also a big responsibility as well.”

“My hope for Maura is that she helps change the landscape of what resources are offered to those who have limited mobility—regardless of the cause,” Don says in an email. “But truly I know Maura and know that no matter what success she has, it won’t mean as much as a cure would.”

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