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PDF Champions in Action

In this newsletter, we often tell readers the stories of our PDF Champions,” and their success in raising funds for our research, education and advocacy programs.  But PDF Champions have an additional accomplishment: raising awareness of Parkinson’s disease (PD). 

The following two stories showcase some of the individuals who have been inspired to find opportunities for raising the visibility of PD in their communities. 

Actor Raises Funds and Awareness

After Larry Strauss, an actor living in Southern California, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, he found auditions to be challenging.  It was difficult to hide his symptoms and to know when or how to tell a potential employer about his diagnosis.  So he performed outreach work about issues of employment and Parkinson’s that led to a series of articles in a national industry publication. 

He did not stop there and has since worked to publicize the cause amongst the casting community, his friends, family and neighbors.  After Larry finished up his latest feature role in the film White Knuckles in July 2008, he convinced the producers to stage a special early-release screening of the film and donated the proceeds from ticket sales to PDF.  He did the same for PDF in 2006, when he organized a dance event at a local night club and invited friends, family and colleagues.  Then this past April, when friends threw him a birthday party, he asked that his friends make donations to PDF in lieu of gifts.

These events raised a total of over $3,000 and this was certainly welcome.  But as Larry says, “Raising money is important, and we all have favorite hobbies or interests that can be turned into fundraising events.  But there are other ways to contribute.  The more awareness about Parkinson’s, the better.”

Personal Trainer “Pumps it up for PD”

Personal trainer Ann Savio-Affinito found her inspiration by bringing together her professional passion and her desire to fight PD.  Her motivation comes from the experience of her late father, Guy Savio, who battled with the disease.

Ann’s most in-demand class at Renaissance Club Sports in Walnut Creek, CA, has been body sculpting. So, with the support of her fitness club, she promoted a one-day class called “Pump it up for Parkinson’s” — from which proceeds have supported PDF’s programs.

She raised over $600 from her class.  Sadly, Ann’s father passed away in June, but not before he found out about her event.

As she said, “I wanted to raise awareness and I’m a fitness trainer by trade.  It is something I enjoy and I’m good at so why not use it to raise awareness?  You hear about cancer and heart disease, but not a lot about PD.  Helping to change that hit home for me.”

How Can You Be a Champion?

Larry and Ann used tools from their everyday lives to raise funds and awareness for PD.  PDF thanks them and all of our other PDF Champions for their work to help raise awareness of the disease around the country.

If you are interested in hosting your own event, our staff can help.  To learn more about the PDF Champions program