Hey Arnold Star Launches Medical Crowdfund Amid MS Battle

Francesca Marie Smith is known best for her roles on Hey Arnold and Recess.

Today, the animation fandom is rallying behind one of its beloved stars. This week, reports surfaced that Francesca Marie Smith was in need of help. The actress, who is known best for voicing Helga on Hey Arnold, is fighting a difficult diagnosis of multiple sclerosis and needs some help.

Over on SpotFund, the voice actress launched a fundraiser asking for donations to keep them afloat as they continue their fight against MS. Smith says she has been living with the condition since 2019 after a debilitating attack led to her diagnosis. But in early 2024, Smith's life with MS took a dramatic turn for the worse.

"Over the span of 4 days, I began experiencing an onslaught of rapidly growing symptoms such that, on April 12th when I was driven to Keck for MRIs, I collapsed in the lobby (always one to make a dramatic entrance) and was immediately admitted as an emergency inpatient to deal with what quickly became clear was some sort of "severe" MS event," Smith shared.

"I continued to decline while hospitalized and did not respond to initial treatments; I certainly couldn't walk, but I also could no longer eat solid foods, I was having trouble breathing, I couldn't speak (could only vaguely wail in ways that my blessed mother was, usually, able to translate due to her impressive mind-reading abilities).... We would eventually learn that the new lesions on my brain were mimicking the effects of a stroke; I also had pseudo-bulbar palsy, so my left hand had curled into a claw. I am very lucky in that I was not really in pain, but any number of other weird feelings were definitely part of the MS roulette during this time."

Thankfully, Smith says she is on her way to recovery from this recent attack, but her fragile health is making regular work impossible. As such, the actress has launched a SpotFund with the goal of using any donations to keep themselves in their home and address bills.

"I would never want to impose or make anyone feel obligated in any way, but if you find yourself with a few dollars you could willingly spare, it would so help to keep me in my home right now, and ease the transition when I've lost so much time to things outside my control, yet bills continue to accumulate," Smith shared.

"I hope that my sharing this bit of news can help increase awareness and understanding-about MS, about (dis)ability, about precarity, and so on. I retain the awe, the gratitude, and the optimism that characterized my initial diagnosis; I've learned so much, and I have so much appreciation for the many specialties that have helped me along this journey. It is with that same optimism and appreciation that I now turn to you all, hopeful that we can get through this patch together and excited about what comes next."

Currently, Smith has earned an impressive $11,000+ USD in donations, and their crowdfunding campaign is still open. Plenty of animation lovers and colleagues have already pitched in to the fund. So for more information on Smith's medical journey, you can find their SpotFund here