Still of Robin Williams in “The Angriest Man in Brooklyn.” Photo credit: Jojo Whilden/Lionsgate

Officials with the San Diego-based Challenged Athletes Foundation, reacting Monday to the death of Robin Williams, recalled how the actor helped the organization gain prominence.

The star regularly appeared at events during the foundation’s formative years, according to Bob Babbitt, a founding member, and Virginia Tinley, the executive director. The CAF supports disabled athletes, many of them wounded military veterans.

“He gave us so much credibility, so we weren’t just on the sports page. All of a sudden we’re on Channel 10, or the front page of the newspaper because of Robin Williams,” Babbitt told 10News. “So it’s not just showcasing Robin. He knew that his presence would showcase athletes with disabilities.”

Tinley told NBC7/39 that the foundation had an event planned this weekend in Sausalito, and the actor had said he planned to attend.

“We’ve been so lucky to have Robin Williams involved as a spokesperson and a representative of the Challenged Athletes Foundation,” Tinley said.

She said Williams, an avid bicyclist, first attended the foundation’s triathlon in 1998 and was “blown away” by the accomplishments of the competitors. He later took his teammate, double-amputee Rudy Garcia-Tolson, on to Oprah Winfrey’s television show.

According to the Marin County Coroner’s Office, paramedics responded to Williams’ home in Tiburon around noon after receiving a 911 call about an unconscious person. The 63-year-old actor was pronounced dead at the scene.

Coroner’s officials said investigators believe “the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made.” Williams’ publicist, Mara Buxbaum, issued a statement saying Williams had “been battling severe depression of late.”

Williams was remembered on Monday as a Hollywood and comedic luminary by colleagues and friends stunned by the actor’s death from an apparent suicide in Marin County.

“Robin Williams was like no other,” said Henry Winkler, a star of “Happy Days,” on which Williams originated his breakout role of the alien Mork.

“To watch him create on the spot was a privilege to behold,” Winkler wrote on his Twitter page. “Robin you are an angel now. Rest in peace.”

Fred Willard added, “Comedy has lost a great man.”

According to the Marin County coroner’s office, paramedics responded to Williams’ home in Tiburon around noon after receiving a 911 call about an unconscious person. Williams, 63, was pronounced dead at the scene. Coroner’s officials said investigators believe “the death to be a suicide due to asphyxia, but a comprehensive investigation must be completed before a final determination is made.”

Williams’ publicist, Mara Buxbaum, said Williams “has been battling severe depression of late.”

“This is a tragic and sudden loss,” Buxbaum said.

Susan Schneider, Williams’ wife, said she “lost my husband and my best friend, while the world lost one of its most beloved artists and beautiful human beings. I am utterly heartbroken.”

Comedian George Lopez responded on his Twitter page, saying “Vaya Con Dios, my friend. I love you.” Comedian Chris Rock wrote, “So sad so funny.”

“I didn’t know I could be so sad, angry, stunned and grateful at the same time,” comedian Jim Gaffigan wrote.

Actor Jon Cryer of “Two and a Half Men” wrote, “We will try to carry on, but it won’t be any fun without you.”

“I could not be more stunned by the loss of Robin Williams, mensch, great talent, acting partner, genuine soul,” actor/comedian Steve Martin said.

Actor Steve Carell said Williams “made the world a little bit better.”

Fran Drescher, who appeared with Williams in “Cadillac Man,” said he taught her a valuable lesson about working in Hollywood.

“He taught me to care about everyone on a show,” she said. “From top to bottom he took time for all. A (great) talent. Big loss.”

Flowers will be placed on Williams’ star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.

A Chicago native, Williams studied theater at Julliard before touring as a stand-up comedian, leading to his casting as the offbeat alien Mork from Ork on a 1974 episode of “Happy Days.” The character was so popular it led to the spinoff “Mork & Mindy,” co-starring Pam Dawber.

He went on to a film career that earned him four Oscar nominations, including a win for his supporting role opposite Matt Damon and Ben Affleck in “Good Will Hunting.” He was nominated as lead actor for his work in “Good Morning, Vietnam,” “Dead Poets Society” and “The Fisher King.”

The Hollywood Foreign Press Association presented Williams with its Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2005.

Williams most recently starred in the CBS series “The Crazy Ones.” He had a brief role as President Dwight D. Eisenhower in “Lee Daniels’ The Butler.” He portrayed another former president, Teddy Roosevelt, in a pair of “Night at the Museum” films.

His other films included “Patch Adams,” “The Birdcage,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Jumanji,” “Hook,” “Toys” and “Awakenings.”

City News Service

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