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Around & About the Community

PDF Gala Raises a Record $800K to Support Research

Braving ominous charcoal skies and a violent spring thunderstorm, some 400 well-wishers gathered at the Pierre in New York City on May 16 for the Parkinson's Disease Foundation’s (PDF) annual fundraising gala, Bal du Printemps. The gross proceeds came to more than $800,000 for Parkinson’s disease research, a PDF record.

The evening featured appearances by PDF’s two major awardees. New York’s Lt. Governor David A. Paterson received the 50th Anniversary Award for Leadership in Public Policy for his work in getting the State Legislature to approve $600 million in funding for support of regenerative medicine and stem-cell research. The family of Sol and Lillian Goldman received the Page and William Black Humanitarian Award for their generous financial support of Parkinson’s research. The Goldman family was represented by Dr. Amy Goldman, one of Sol and Lillian’s four children, and Stephanie Goldman-Pittel, a grandchild. Over the past decade, the Goldman family has given more than $1 million to support Parkinson’s research.

Other highpoints of the evening included an inspirational address by Howard DeWitt Morgan, a member of the PDF Board of Directors and Dinner Chair for the event, and a reading of welcoming remarks written by Page Morton Black — PDF’s long-time Chairman, who was not able to attend the event — by her friend and fellow Board member, Margo Catsimatidis. Mr. Morgan was introduced most touchingly by a video featuring his father, Harry, who lives with PD and is a long-time resident of Romania.

One of the event’s unique features was inclusion in the silent auction of artwork created by people with Parkinson’s, brought together through a PDF initiative called the PDCreativity Project. The auction as a whole raised some $37,000, another PDF record.

PDF thanks all who attended the event and all who contributed to its success. In particular, we thank this year’s Gala Chairs, Karen Burke Goulandris, M.D., Ph.D., and Isobel Robins Konecky; Honorary Chairs Page Morton Black and Judith Sulzberger, M.D.; Auction Chair Arlene Levine; Dinner Chairman Howard Dewitt Morgan and Corporate Co-Chairs John K. Castle, John and Margo Catsimatidis and Alan and Kathy Greenberg.

Walking Towards the Cure

On a sun-drenched Saturday, April 28, more than 11,000 people gathered in New York City’s Central Park for the 13th Annual Parkinson’s Unity Walk — supporting the nearly one million Americans who live with Parkinson’s disease, and raising more than $1.5 million to fund Parkinson’s research.

Walkers started the day on “Find the Cure Boulevard” where they were greeted by upbeat music, scores of educational booths featuring information on Parkinson’s-related topics and an overwhelmingly positive spirit. Walkers — many of whom had traveled great distances to attend the event — mingled, shared stories and took advantage of all that the Unity Walk had to offer.

At noon, Martin Tuchman, Chairman of the Unity Walk, kicked off the program by reading Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proclamation declaring the day Parkinson’s Unity Walk Day. The crowd then greeted Margot Zobel, founder of the Unity Walk, with an enthusiastic ovation and heard May May Ali, daughter of Muhammad Ali, read one of her own poems. They also listened to remarks by Lonnie Ali, Muhammad’s wife; Davis Phinney, founder of the Davis Phinney Foundation; Amy Comstock Rick, CEO of the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN) and Anne Udall, Chair of PAN’s Board of Directors and daughter of the late US Representative Morris K. Udall.

In honor of her outstanding work in the Parkinson’s community, Tamra Cantore was presented with the Alan Bonander Humanitarian Award. Ms. Cantore’s “Team Cantore” has raised more than $300,000 over the past six years for Parkinson’s research through the Unity Walk. Michael J. Fox, greeted with deafening applause, gave the final speech, emphasizing the need to find the cure for Parkinson’s and reminding everyone of the role that the Unity Walk plays in that goal. Filled with determination and in high spirits, thousands of participants then tackled the two-mile course.

All of the funds from the Unity Walk are designated for research and will be distributed among the major US-based Parkinson’s disease foundations. Last year, PDF received some $130,000 from the Walk for its research programs.

PDF Hosts PD Awareness Day in Illinois Mall

On Saturday, April 14, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation hosted Parkinson’s Day at Stratford Square Mall in Bloomingdale, Illinois. This event, held in April to honor Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, was designed to raise awareness of the disease and to provide an opportunity for people living with Parkinson’s to exercise, socialize and have their questions answered — all while having a great time.

The day began as 200 wonderfully enthusiastic walkers took their turn around the mall. After the walk, participants talked with Parkinson’s information specialists from PDF’s Parkinson’s Information Service (PINS) and met with representatives from PD support groups and medical centers in Illinois. In the afternoon, attendees got a real workout with physical therapist Blake Stahl of Alexian Rehabilitation Hospital, who led an hour of exercise designed especially for people with Parkinson’s disease.

By the end of the day, attendees had walked, toned their muscles, made new friends and shared important information about Parkinson’s disease within the community. Special thanks go to the management and staff of Stratford Square Mall for helping PDF to make this event so successful.

Plans for awareness events in April 2008 are already underway. If you would like ideas for events in your community, please call the PINS toll-free helpline at (800) 457-6676.

PDF and MJFF Partner with NJ Nets for Parkinson’s Awareness Night

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF) took the NBA by storm when they partnered with the New Jersey Nets basketball team for the first-ever Parkinson’s Awareness Night on Friday, April 13. A sold-out crowd of more than 18,000 people heard and saw the Parkinson’s message as they packed the Continental Airlines Arena and watched the Nets defeat the New York Knicks, 100-86.

Robin Elliott, PDF’s executive director, and Amanda McDorman, associate director of Team Fox, took center court to deliver the game ball as the jumbo-tron blazed with public service announcements encouraging attendees to stop by a table on the concourse for more information about Parkinson’s disease. The audience welcomed them heartily.

PDF and the Fox Foundation were approached with the idea for the game by long-time supporter Selwyn Jacobs, whose daughter Randi lives with Parkinson’s disease. The Jacobs family is extremely active both in fundraising for Parkinson’s research and in education and advocacy for the disease. Prior to the game, Selwyn and his wife Marjorie joined Randi to kick off the night by posing for a photo with the Nets forward-center Cliff Robinson.

“It made sense to me to combine two of my passions — fighting Parkinson’s and Nets basketball — to raise awareness of Parkinson’s,” said Selwyn. “When people understand what this disease really is, what it means, they want to help. We just need to keep getting them involved to help find a cure.”

PDF thanks the Jacobs family, the Fox Foundation and the New Jersey Nets for being fantastic partners in this milestone event.