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Around and About the Community

Spring Events Raise Close to $1 Million for PDF’s Research Programs

This has been a busy spring for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF). PDF’s two main New York City-based events — made possible by the help of generous volunteer leaders and participants — were Bal du Printemps, our annual gala, and Celebrate Spring!, a new event designed to involve young professionals. Together, the events generated a gross of $987,000 (about $750,000 net) to support Parkinson’s disease (PD) research!

Bal du Printemps

On May 14, PDF welcomed 450 guests to the Pierre Hotel for its annual gala, Bal du Printemps.

This year’s event highlighted the theme of creativity in Parkinson’s — as an expression of the talent and imagination in our community, and as a form of therapy for many of those who live with this chronic, degenerative disease. The theme was evident throughout the evening, from the honoring of Oliver Sacks, M.D., F.R.C.P., to the displays of numerous and varied works of art — paintings, photography, pottery and jewelry — created by people with Parkinson’s.

The dinner program began with the presentation of the Isobel Robins Konecky Creativity Award to Dr. Sacks, who also served as the evening’s guest speaker. Dr. Sacks, the author of Awakenings, which became an iconic movie about Parkinson’s disease, and most recently of another best-seller, Musicophilia, spoke powerfully about the therapeutic role of creativity in Parkinson’s.

The evening featured two other award presentations: the Page and William Black Humanitarian Award, to long-time supporters Mel and Carol Taub and their family, and the Lifetime Achievement Award, to Lewis P. Rowland, M.D., PDF’s president for more than 35 years.

Mr. and Mrs. Taub, along with their daughters Stefani (“Stevi”) Gurkoff and Jill Taub Drury, and other family members and friends, have a long history of service to Parkinson’s science through their support of PDF — most notably, in their recent leadership of a successful $6 million fund drive to modernize the Parkinson’s disease research laboratories at Columbia University Medical Center. The award was made by Lucien Côté, M.D., a beloved Columbia neurologist, and was accepted touchingly in remarks by Stevi and Jill.

Dr. Rowland was introduced by Stanley Fahn, M.D., PDF’s Scientific Director and Dr. Rowland’s protégé of four decades ago. Dr. Fahn lauded his mentor for his incredible commitment to PDF and his outstanding leadership in the science and practice of neurology at Columbia University and in professional associations around the world. As Chair of the Department of Neurology for more than 25 years, Dr. Rowland played the leading role in building the department into the international powerhouse that it remains today.

Artist Peter Thompson, a person living with Parkinson’s who is active with PDF’s PDCreativity project, not only attended the event but contributed several works of art to the silent auction. He said of the evening, “I felt very honored to have my photos chosen, to see the artwork of people with Parkinson’s displayed so prominently throughout the night and to be in the presence of Dr. Sacks. In putting emphasis on creativity, the gala truly celebrated a positive tool of empowerment for people with PD.”

The 2008 event brought in a record breaking $887,000 for PDF’s research programs. PDF thanks this year’s gala leadership for making this possible: Honorary Chairs Page Morton Black, Amy Goldman and Judith Sulzberger, M.D.; Gala Co-Chairs Karen Burke Goulandris, M.D., Ph.D., and Isobel Robins Konecky; Dinner Chair, John Connolly, Ed.D., and Auction Chair Arlene Levine.

Celebrate Spring!

On April 3, PDF was joined by more than 500 party-goers at Cipriani 23rd Street for its first Celebrate Spring! event, an evening that included cocktails and dancing.

The event was the creation of G. Pennington Egbert III, his sister Melissa Egbert Sheehan, and their close friend Georgina B. Schaeffer. Both of their fathers lived with Parkinson’s disease and Georgina’s mother was a long-time member of the PDF Board of Directors. The three joined together to advance a cure for PD and to engage their fellow New Yorkers in the cause — hence the creation of the Young New Yorkers for the Fight Against Parkinson’s Committee, now 100 members strong.

The group kicked off their creation with Celebrate Spring!, which raised nearly $100,000 for Parkinson’s research. Based on the success of this first event, the committee is already making plans for the second Celebrate Spring! in April of 2009.

PDF’s Executive Director, Robin Elliott, noted, “PDF is just delighted to join hands with this vigorous group of young professionals who are committed to fighting Parkinson’s. We are pleased to announce that all funds raised from this event will be directed to PDF’s research program — in particular, at the Committee’s request, to research projects in the area of genetics that have been identified by Dr. Lucien Côté, a valued and long-time friend of PDF.”

PDF thanks its volunteer committees for making these events possible!