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PDF Champions In Action

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) News & Review is pleased to highlight five more inspiring stories from our PDF Champions — individuals, families and organizations that have shown incredible dedication to Parkinson’s research, education and advocacy by making PDF their charity of choice. We applaud our featured Champions, and all others who signed up for the task in the last few months.

Lenny: Connecticut Golfers Support One of Their Own

Lenny’s friends called him a medical miracle. He had been living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) for years and had fared better than some others with the disease. This past year, however, has been more challenging for Lenny, and his friends have rallied around him.

On August 15, 2007, Lenny’s fellow golfers at The Farms Country Club in Wallingford, CT, led by Jim Hanlon, the club’s Head Golf Professional, held a day-long Pro-Am tournament in Lenny’s honor. The event included 18 holes of golf, played by 100 club members and 25 golf professionals, as well as a pre-tournament lunch and post-event dinner/awards ceremony.

The event — the first of what Jim says will be an annual gathering — raised an astounding $87,000. This is due to the many friends who wanted to support Lenny and his wife Sue, including the hardworking team that raised additional funds: Kathy Smith, Jim McMahon, Toby and Karen Brimberg, Tom Valentino and Dave Melillo.

Keara: The Sixth Year of Cursus Cerebro

On October 20, 2007, the Sixth Annual Cursus Cerebro 5K road race took place on Sherwood Island in Westport, CT. Keara Stewart, building on a family tradition, was race organizer.

Keara’s father, John Stewart, has been living with Parkinson’s disease for 12 years. Her brother Sean began the event six years ago and when he left for college, Keara took over leadership of the 5K run, the name of which is Latin for “Race for the Brain.”

Now a high school senior, Keara is busy with schoolwork, college applications and her role as captain of her school’s cross-country team. Still, she found the time to perform the logistical duties that come with planning a race for more than 75 runners. She wrote to family and friends for support and garnered the participation of several other local high schools. On race-day morning, Keara and her mom, Jeanne, marked out the course, which wound along Long Island Sound and through nearby woods.

The event continues to be a success. Since 2002 Cursus Cerebro has raised over $40,000 for PDF.

James: Worn Out Sneakers

Running 26.2 miles is no small accomplishment, so you may think it ambitious of James Rolke, a longtime runner from Woburn, MA, to complete a marathon as a means of raising funds and awareness for PD.

In fact, James did not think one marathon was good enough. So, in October 2007, James set off on an ambitious “Worn out Sneakers” campaign: to run a marathon in each of the 50 states, at a rate of two or three each year, beginning with the 2007 Chicago Marathon. The goal of his multi-year campaign is to generate a stunning $250,000 for PDF.

From the Chicago Marathon, James raised a total of $5,450 – $1,000 of which he donated himself. He has promised to repeat this generous contribution for every race he runs.


James is touched by Parkinson’s through his girlfriend’s father. He has observed that while other diseases seem to be visible in the mainstream media, Parkinson’s is not as well represented. He wants to get the word out and plans to do so by drawing media attention to the “Worn out Sneakers” campaign during his future marathons.

James’ next race will be Sarasota, FL on March 2, 2008, and after that, he speculates, will be the San Francisco marathon on August 3, 2008. We will keep you updated as James comes closer and closer to his goal!

Joe: Punching Out Parkinson’s

On July 16, 2007, 200 people gathered to celebrate Joe Novello’s mom and her 71st birthday. Four weeks prior to the event, Joe, who says, “my mom was my best friend growing up and she still is,” was still brainstorming gift ideas. He soon realized that the best present might not be a gift he could place in his mother’s hands, but one that would honor her spirit and endure for years to come.

So, with only four weeks to go, Joe, with the help of friend Laura Marshall and others, made plans for a party that would raise funds to support PDF — as tribute to his mother’s struggle with PD. He quickly found a location in downtown Cincinnati, OH and started writing emails to family and friends.

In line with his passion for boxing and sports, Joe dubbed his party, “Punch out Parkinson’s.” To highlight the event theme, Joe and his team collected sports memorabilia for an auction and invited local athletes to attend.

The party raised $5,000, and Joe considers this just the beginning. He says that “Punch out Parkinson’s” will be an annual event and vows to make it bigger and better every year.

Maggie: Running for Bobby

A few months ago, Maggie Simpson wasn’t a runner, nor was she affiliated with PDF. However, she had a big heart, a history of “giving back,” and a stepfather, to whom she pointed as her inspiration.

By November 10, Maggie had completed her first road race, eight kilometers long (4.96 miles) and had raised more than $3,000 for PDF.

Maggie’s mother, Priscilla, has long been involved in philanthropic events for worthy causes such as AIDS and breast cancer. Maggie realized that she wanted to do the same for a cause much closer to her heart — Parkinson’s disease. Maggie’s stepfather Bobby has been living with PD for eight years.

Bobby’s courage in the face of PD inspired Maggie to get involved and to help find a cure. She chose the “NTELOS 8K,” a road race that travels the neighborhoods of Richmond, VA, as her fundraising vehicle. Then she hit the Internet for training tips, created a disciplined schedule, put on her shoes and began to run.

In addition to generating awareness and needed funds for PD, Maggie found herself continuing a family tradition of philanthropy and winning the enthusiastic support of her community.

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Thank you to all of our PDF Champions for your spectacular commitment to PD research, education and advocacy! To learn more about these Champions, or to become one yourself, visit us at www.pdf.org/en/pdf_champion.