Emma Heming Willis and Helen Christoni Share 'Make Time' Brain Health Mission: 'Your Purpose Finds You' (Exclusive)

The charitable business partners open up about women's brain health — a cause close to their hearts

<p>Geoff Moore</p> Helen Christoni (left) and Emma Heming Willis.

Geoff Moore

Helen Christoni (left) and Emma Heming Willis.

Long before they heard the startling statistics, Emma Heming Willis and Helen Christoni knew something was amiss. How was it possible, they wondered, that no one in everyday life talked about brain health?

"My doctor will talk to me about my breast health, my cholesterol, my heart, but not about my brain," says Heming Willis, whose interest in the topic, and in our body’s most complex and precious organ, was piqued in 2014 after the birth of her youngest daughter, Evelyn, 9.

She was experiencing brain fog, but her doctor dismissed it as "mommy brain." Undeterred, the entrepreneur and former model, who also shares daughter Mabel, 11, with her husband, actor Bruce Willis, eventually sought out a specialist.

"I’d never heard the term 'brain health' before," says Heming Willis, 47. While the fog gradually lifted thanks to "fistfuls" of daily supplement pills and healthy lifestyle tweaks, the experience planted a seed of what would become a lasting purpose.

Related: Emma Heming Willis Launches Brain Health Brand, 'New Purpose' amid Bruce Willis' Dementia Battle (Exclusive)

In 2020, Heming Willis, alongside Christoni, 53, her business partner and dear friend, co-founded Make Time, a wellness brand and movement to raise awareness of the importance of brain health, particularly for women. (According to a 2023 report by the Alzheimer's Association, women make up two-thirds of both Alzheimer's patients and caregivers.)

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Make Time Wellness Emme Heming Willis and Helen Christoni.
Make Time Wellness Emme Heming Willis and Helen Christoni.

For both women, celebrated in this week’s issue of PEOPLE with other innovators, activists and role models making a big difference in their communities and beyond, the cause has become deeply personal.

Heming Willis revealed in Feb. 2023 that Bruce had been diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia (FTD). Christoni lost both her grandmother and mother-in-law to dementia, and last year her daughter to mental health issues.

"All families are affected by this," says Christoni. "We found ourselves in this position, with this mission. Your purpose finds you."

<p>Emma Heming Willis/Instagram</p> Bruce Willis and Emma Heming Willis.

Emma Heming Willis/Instagram

Bruce Willis and Emma Heming Willis.

"Making time," Christoni points out, can be as simple as a quickie adventure (the pair recently tried yoga with baby goats) or blocking out plans with a friend.

As a caregiver herself, Heming Willis has learned first-hand the value of recharging, and the comfort in shared experience. "I’ve been able to lean in on this new community I find myself in, so giving back to people who are on this journey as care partners has been super meaningful," she says. "Community is everything."

Related: Following Bruce Willis's Dementia Diagnosis, Emma Heming Willis to Publish New Book About Caregiving

In 2023, the pair started a podcast and created Make Time Wellness, a product line that includes brain-nourishing multivitamins and drinkable supplements, initially sparked by Heming Willis' growing distaste for "choking down" solid pills. Part of the proceeds benefits Hilarity for Charity, a nonprofit dedicated to caring for families impacted by Alzheimer’s and supporting research and education.

Make Time Wellness Emma Heming Willis and Helen Christoni.
Make Time Wellness Emma Heming Willis and Helen Christoni.

"No one was talking to women about their brain," says Christoni. "It was a very male-dominated conversation. I was like let’s do it."

Educating women in the importance of brain health early on and "not just when you get a diagnosis and it’s too late," says Heming Willis, is a crucial focus of what she and Christoni consider purpose-driven work. "Brain health can happen at any point in our journey," says Heming Willis. "We’re really just trying to empower women to think about it."

For more with PEOPLE's Women Changing the World, pick up the March 11 issue, on newsstands Friday.

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