Champions in Action
PDF is grateful to our Champions for making PDF their charity of choice. We are also inspired by their personal stories and dedication to Parkinson's research. What are they up to? Browse some of their stories below by type of event, or find and support a current PDF Champion.
Mid-Hudson Valley Support Group Raises More than $10,000 with Annual Walk
The Parkinson's Support Group of the Mid-Hudson Valley, led by Chairwoman Nancy Redkey, raised more than $10,000 for PDF at their third annual "Walk Over Water" on April 28, 2013, in Poughkeepsie, NY. Nearly 400 people walked three miles, along the Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park. The walk also featured children's activities along with PDF informational brochures, Parkinson's awareness bracelets and pins.
"Parkinson's doesn't just pick a family perfectly suited to dealing with the disease. It knows no favorites. The rich, the poor, scientists, bus drivers; Parkinson's can strike anyone. We all need to be involved to find a cure," said Ms. Redkey on organizing the event.
12-Year-Old Hosts Pasta for Parkinson's, Raises $2,000
Sierra Verdin of San Lorenzo, CA, rang the dinner bell and hosted Pasta for Parkinson's on April 6, 2013 in honor of her grandfather who lives with the disease. The 12-year-old raised more than $2,000 for PDF by selling tickets for the dinner and raffle, which featured prizes donated by local businesses.
After watching how Parkinson's limited her grandfather's activity outside of his home, she was inspired to organize a benefit in his honor.
"I just want my Papa to know that people do support him and love him. He is very fun and exciting. I think there are many people just like him who feel pent up in their homes because living with Parkinson's makes them feel nervous or uneasy about doing everyday things like me and you," says Ms. Verdin.
The following is a letter received by PDF.
June 14, 2010
Dear Parkinson’s Disease Foundation,
I just wanted to let you all know about something special my kids did.
One Saturday in May, my children, Matthew, age 10 and Juliana, age eight and their friend, Canyon, decided to operate a lemonade stand in front of our house.
They had been outside for a while and had already needed a refill on the lemonade when I went out to check on them. I was wearing my Parkinson’s Awareness Month T-shirt and they asked me about it. So I explained what PDF was and a little about Parkinson’s disease.
My son said, “Hey! That gives me an idea. Let’s donate the money we make to PDF to help Honey!” (Honey is their Grandmother who has Parkinson’s). They all agreed to donate it. I was very proud of them and think it is a great thing to do with their money!
Please accept the donation of $20.40 from my children’s lemonade stand.
On October 9, 2011, in Concord, MA, family and friends celebrated the life of Ernest G. Spence with “Ernie’s Favorites,” a New England-style contra dance. Ernie Spence lived with Parkinson’s for 25 years and according to his family, “despite the devastating effects of Parkinson’s, he maintained his love of dance and life until he died.” In his honor, his family – including his wife Joan, their children and spouses, Linda D. Spence, Betsy Harlow (Reneé Harlow) and Harlan Spence (Gael Phillips-Spence), eight grandchildren, one great-grandchild and countless friends – brought the community together to dance the Chorus Jig and Money Musk, among others. Mr. Spence’s community connections were evident, with several musicians donating their time for the evening. Through “Ernie’s Favorites” and additional donations made in Mr. Spence’s honor, the family raised $5,630.
On December 9, 2012, more than 150 music lovers and supporters of the fight against Parkinson's disease (PD) gathered for the 10th Annual Music for Parkinson's concert at Rye Country Day School in Rye, NY. The event, organized by Music for Parkinson's Research, raised $40,000 in net proceeds for the research programs of the Parkinson's Disease Foundation (PDF).
The event continued its warm tradition of bringing together its dedicated team of organizers, family, friends and local musicians to shine a spotlight on the Parkinson's cause. The chamber music concert featured performances by several well-known musicians including pianist Gena Raps, up-and-coming performing ensemble, the Attacca Quartet and clarinetist John Stine, who is also one of the event's co-founders.
This year's event honored Dr. Eger, who is a co-founder of Music for Parkinson's along with Mr. Stine, of Chappaqua, and the late Marsha Winokur. PDF presented Dr. Eger with a citation to recognize his role in helping the concerts to raise $450,000 for Parkinson's research since their inception.
Dr. Eger noted, “Not only have your generous donations funded critical Parkinson's research, but more importantly they have created hope amongst people touched by Parkinson's. I want to thank you for transforming this annual concert into a wonderful community event where old friends reunite and new friends can go home with memories of more than sublime music."
Jeni's Shuffle ~ Shake ~ Parkinson’s Awareness Celebrate
On April 14, 2012, PDF Champion Jeni Forshier-Jenkins of Sidney, IL, and friend Mary Jones shed a light on Parkinson’s at the Lincoln Square Mall in Urbana, IL with Shuffle ~ Shake ~ Parkinson’s Awareness Celebrate. The event benefitted PDF with more than $1,700.
Ms. Jenkins, now 48, was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s in 2008. After initially struggling to cope with her diagnosis, Ms. Jenkins decided to take action with longtime friend Mary, whose uncle also lived with Parkinson’s.
“We wanted to support families and give them hope by pulling together the vast amount of resources and information that are hard to obtain, in one area for one day,” says Ms. Jones.
At their event, guests could purchase sweet treats and other items from community businesses, Parkinson’s awareness cups and bracelets and find educational materials.
Ms. Jenkins remarked, “When young people get diagnosed with Parkinson’s and life gets turned upside down, they don’t even know where to start. People of a younger age might feel alone because it’s not talked about as much. We can’t save the world with one fundraiser but we can make an impact in our community.”
In April 2011, Lisa Piccirillo of Westchester, NY, celebrated Parkinson’s Awareness Month with a “Happy Hour for Parkinson’s” at Enhanced Home in Port Chester.
Ms. Piccirillo became involved as a PDF Champion on behalf of her grandfather who lived with Parkinson’s for many years. As a music lover and regular attendee of 107.1 The Peak’s NEXT Music Show Happy Hour events, Ms. Piccirillo asked radio host Chris Bro to dedicate April’s event to raising funds and awareness for Parkinson’s. Mr. Bro agreed, and together they planned an evening of music, catered refreshments and prizes.
Attendees of the event were able to enjoy live performances by three local groups: the rock band Saint Bernadette, singer T Jay and The Knox Sisters. The event was free and open to the public, but funds were raised for PDF through donations and raffles.
Ms. Piccirillo said “My grandfather was a wonderful man, and my efforts to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s are in honor of his memory. I hope that this event will inspire those who participate to support the cause.”
High School Student Dedicates Project to Parkinson's Awareness
Kate DeWitte of Washington, CT, spent 2013 educating her classmates at Shepaug Valley High School on Parkinson's disease for her requisite year-long senior project. The 18-year-old sold handmade snowflakes in the winter and hosted on-campus Zumba classes and a bake sale to raise more than $2,900.
After her father, Steve DeWitte (a member of PDF's People with Parkinson's Advisory Council), was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson's disease in 2005, she had many questions about the disease and how it impacted their family. She saw her school project as the perfect venue to better educate herself and make a difference for others.
"When I started to see the progression of Parkinson's disease in my dad, I wished there was another kid just like me who understood what it felt like to go through the same thing. My primary motivation is to be a mentor for others my age and help with their understanding of Parkinson's," says Ms. DeWitte about her ongoing efforts.
Second Graders Collect Pennies for Parkinson's
Deirdre Murphy Cruz, a Staten Island, NY, native and her second grade class at Our Lady Help of Christians collected Pennies for Parkinson's in a jar throughout the month of April, 2013 and raised more than $400 to benefit PDF. The students also colored in tulips to hang in their classroom to raise awareness.
Because of connections to Parkinson's disease in her family, Mrs. Cruz was inspired to get her class involved in the cause.
"Parkinson's disease is one of those diseases you do not hear much about. I want to help any family I can by contributing as much as we can raise," said Mrs. Cruz.
In April 2011, PDF Champion Karen“KC” Veitch, of Keene State College in Keene, NH, brought Parkinson’s awareness to her campus by organizing, “Steps For a Cure.” About 60 students walked alongside Karen and were able to raise over $1,000 towards her quest for a cure.
As a member of Kappa Delta Phi sorority, Karen encouraged her sorority sisters and fellow students to partake in the walk for Parkinson’s, a disease that hits close to home for her. Karen’s father has lived with Parkinson’s for several years, so she wanted to do something for this personal cause. As she said, “The fight for a cure is close to my heart and I hope that this walk inspired those involved to support the cause. I hope that the funds I raised for PDF will help bring us closer to finding a cure.”
As a PDF Champion, Karen utilized PDF’s materials, providing educational pamphlets during the walk and PDF’s official Parkinson’s Awareness t-shirt.
PDF applauds Karen for bringing awareness of Parkinson’s to Keene State and for her successful fundraising efforts.
Softball Teams Pitch in for Parkinson's Awareness Month
The Port Jervis High School, NY and Delaware Valley High School, PA, varsity softball teams pitched in to help those living with Parkinson's. The teams squared off in a non-league game in Port Jervis, NY on April 9, 2013 and raised more than $2,200 for PDF.
The cause hits close to home for both teams' head coaches. Port Jervis' Coach John Faggione's late father lived with Parkinson's for more than 15 years. Meanwhile, his longtime friendly rival Mr. Matz, head coach of the Delaware Valley Warriors, was touched by Parkinson's through this late mother-in-law who lived with the disease.
"I think it's important for our players to understand the value of doing community events like this to give back. As coaches, we're not only instructing about our sport, we're also teaching life lessons" said Mr. Faggione.
Two-Time PDF Champion Living with PD Hikes Across Grand Canyon
Jennifer Neathery of Huntsville, AL, has been dedicated to Parkinson's advocacy efforts since her diagnosis of young onset Parkinson's disease seven years ago at the age of 32. Having already jumpstarted a local support group and run a marathon last year to raise funds for PDF, she decided to take on another physical challenge: hiking more than 40 miles across the Grand Canyon from rim to rim in Tusayan, AZ.
She completed the hike on April 8, 2013 and raised more than $1,100 for PDF.
"With my 40th birthday on the horizon, I thought what better way to advocate for Parkinson's disease research and inspire others to get involved and do whatever they can to help?" said Ms. Neathery.
College Student Paddles Against Parkinson's in Honor of Grandmother
Cody Ledsworth, of Muskegon, MI, a student at Western Michigan University, kayaked across the 216-mile Muskegon River over the course of six days in May 2013 in honor of his grandmother who lives with Parkinson's disease. His efforts raised more than $2,600 for PDF, surpassing his initial $500 goal.
"Seeing my grandma and how my grandfather takes care of her, made me realize that I should dedicate my Muskegon River kayaking trip to benefit Parkinson's research, awareness and help for caregivers," says Mr. Ledsworth on his motivation.
Church Hosts Memorial 5K Run for Parkinson's Research in Honor of Deacon
Ellenwood, GA, resident Peggy Sensabaugh and the First Baptist Church of Ellenwood hosted the Josh Faircloth Memorial 5K Run to benefit PDF on November 10, 2012. Nearly 50 runners participated in the run, which helped raise more than $700. Ms. Sensabaugh, along with a dedicated team of family and friends organized the 5K run in memory of the late Mr. Faircloth, a founding member and ordained deacon of the Church, to raise awareness about the disease he battled.
Mr. Faircloth's widow, Dot Faircloth, remarks, "Josh endured the challenge of Parkinson's disease with courage, grace and dignity. We are very proud to have been blessed with him as a husband, father and grandfather. We are truly humbled to have a memorial 5K Run in his honor to help others who are touched by Parkinson's."
Ashley Runs 2012 Denver Rock n' Roll Marathon for Friend
On Saturday, September, 22, 2012, PDF Champion Ashley Garrett, of Pensacola, FL, was on the run for Parkinson’s research. She completed the 2012 Rock ‘n’ Roll Denver Marathon, raising more than $2,000 for PDF in honor of her best friend who lives with the disease.
The avid runner was motivated to take on the 26.2 mile challenge to raise awareness about young onset Parkinson’s after her friend, Randi Schultz of Denver, CO, was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 36.
She said, “I’ve always been a runner, but now I will run with a purpose. Randi is a big part of who I have become today. She is proud and humbled that I endeavored to take this on and I hope that by running, I can raise awareness about young onset Parkinson’s.”
Visit Ashley's Fundraising Page
In late June, 2011, Philadelphia, PA, resident Rachel Isenberg climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, in northeastern Tanzania — the highest mountain in Africa — to benefit the research programs of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) with more than $3,500.
An instructor in English as a Second Language and a tennis professional, Ms. Isenberg first raised funds for PDF’s programs in 2010 by running a half marathon in Philadelphia. This year, joined by a college friend, she completed her climb over five days. The pair traveled through rainforest and tundra and climbed through the night. Ms. Isenberg received donations from friends and family to her personal fundraising page, all of which will support PDF’s programs.
She said, “My grandfather had Parkinson’s late in his life and my mother currently struggles with it, so the fight against Parkinson’s is close to my heart. I’m grateful for the funds I was able to raise for PDF with the support of my dear family and friends.”
Off-Roading Business Owners Host Shake, Rattle and Crawl Adventure
Roxanne Levine and Dawn Judson of San Antonio, TX invited their community to show off their vehicles at an outdoor four-wheeling adventure on April 28, 2013. In collaboration with their business Bikini Offroad, they hosted "Shake, Rattle and Crawl" at the Hidden Falls Adventure Park in Marble Falls, TX. With vehicles ranging from ATVs and Jeeps to motorcycles and trucks, 150 guests attended and drove along the scenic trails at the event which raised $2,800. The event also featured a scavenger hunt, a raffle with off-roading prizes and a catered dinner.
Ms. Levine and Ms. Judson saw their love of adventurous driving as an opportunity to honor Ms. Judson's late father-in-law, John Judson, who lived with Parkinson's disease. A trail was named in his memory.
"This is something near and dear to our hearts, because we all knew and loved John. He never let Parkinson's disease dictate what he was capable of accomplishing. We wanted to organize this fun event in memory of him for Parkinson's Awareness Month," said Ms. Levine.
Makeup Artist Dedicates Grand Opening Party to Fighting Parkinson's
Brooklyn, NY, native Stacey Catapano used her makeup palette to make a difference for people living with Parkinson's disease like her own father. She hosted a "Grand Opening Cocktail Party" on September 20, 2012, at her Brooklyn Makeup Studio in Midwood, NY.
"Watching my father lose his mobility and cope with Parkinson's as it progresses, has completely changed the way my family sees things and our understanding of the disease. There is no cure for Parkinson's. The least I can do to help my father and others who are affected by Parkinson's is to raise money to help find a cure."
A portion of all sales of beauty services and products made that day benefitted PDF. Makeup artists also offered free makeovers and gifts with purchases. The party featured food, cocktails and dessert and a raffle of beauty products.
Tammy's Cut-a-Thon Honors Mom
On February 11, 2012, Tammy Kozumplik of Holt, MI, used her hair styling talents to raise awareness and funds for PDF by hosting a Cut-a-Thon at her salon, Holt Hair and Nails.
Since Ms. Kozumplik’s mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 15 years ago, she has held the cause close to her heart. She has looked for ways to get involved, whether by learning more about Parkinson’s or making small donations. Upon opening her salon Holt Hair and Nails this past August, she saw it as, “another great opportunity to pay it forward.”
She and her four stylists donated five dollars to PDF from each cut and styling service on the day of her event. The Cut-a-Thon also featured a silent auction, with all proceeds benefitting PDF, through which cstomers bid on prizes that included gift certificates for services at the salon, a family meal out at a pizzeria and a free oil change at a car dealer.
Ms. Kozumplik says she is committed to raising awareness and funds. She remarks, “I’m doing this to raise money for research, so research can thrive. That’s what’s most important to me.”