Adjust Text Size:change font sizechange font sizechange font sizechange font sizechange font sizechange font size

PDF Champions web banner

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.


Abingdon Knights of Columbus and PDF Research Advocate in MD Raise $3,100

Abingdon Knights of ColumbusThe Knights of Columbus, Father Maurice J. Wolfe Council 11372, in Abingdon, MD, hosted a benefit dinner in February 2014 to raise more than $3,100 for PDF. The dinner featured a silent auction and casino games.

The local Knights of Columbus council, including organizer Jeff Gutowski, were inspired to host the benefit in honor of a fellow member who lives with Parkinson’s disease. PDF Research Advocate Cliff Ishmael of Bel Air, MD, was invited to speak to the more than 70 guests about the disease.

“Cliff did a great job in his talk bringing the disease down to a real level. It was important for us to not only raise funds but help spread awareness, as many people may not realize the struggles that people with Parkinson’s have and the ways they can help make a difference,” said Mr. Gutowski.


New Yorkers Raise $1,300 at PDF's First Helping Hours

Helping HoursMore than 100 New Yorkers helped raise $1,300 for research to kick off PDF's first Helping Hours on November 7, 2013! With a small donation, guests enjoyed a post-work cocktail.

Volunteer chairs Chasen Mintz, Amy Sole and Jeffrey Zygler led Helping Hours: Caring with Cocktails at Public House in New York, NY. The event also featured a raffle for Parkinson's research, with a lucky few guests winning prizes from local businesses such as Chelsea Piers and Flywheel, and sports memorabilia.

Learn More and Host Your Own Helping Hours


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.

See the Mid-Hudson Group in the Media


12-Year-Old Hosts Pasta for Parkinson's, Raises $2,000

PDF Champion Sierra VerdinSierra 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.

Visit Sierra's Fundraising Page


Children Organize Lemonade Stand to Honor GrandfatherPDF Champion Salha family

Hailey Salha, 11, and her sister, Taylor, 9, of Modesto, CA hosted a lemonade stand, raising $60 for PDF. The sisters participated in Modesto's Lemonade Day, a communitywide educational event which encourages children to give back.

The following is a letter received by PDF.

PDF Champion Salha familyJune 7, 2013

To the Parkinson's Disease Foundation,

My sister and I earned money on Lemonade Day and would like to donate it in honor of our grandfather, Herman Salha who is living with Parkinson's disease.

Hailey and Taylor Salha
And very proud parents, Grant and Elizabeth Salha


Stamping for a Cure Honors Friend Living with PD

Stamping for a CureSandy Weakley of Ashland, VA, and the Dover Baptist Association hosted Stamping for a Cure on February 8, 2014. The crafty fundraiser raised $950 to benefit PDF. Nearly 30 guests attended and were invited to create three, paper crafting items or stamping projects. All craft supplies were donated. The event also displayed educational resources on Parkinson's and featured prizes and refreshments.

"This event is in honor of our friend Jelly Bean who was recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s. We hope that a cure will be found soon," said Ms. Weakley.


Eleventh Annual Music for Parkinson’s Concert Raises $40,000 for Research

PDF Champion David Eger, Ph.D., of White Plains, NY, continued a community tradition with the 11th Annual Music for Parkinson's Research Concert on December 8, 2013 in Rye, NY. More than 90 guests attended the afternoon of chamber music and poetry raising nearly $40,000 for research and shining a spotlight on the Parkinson’s cause.

PDF President Robin Elliott with Robin Morgan and David Eger, Music for Parkinson's

This year, alongside chamber music, guests enjoyed a special poetry reading by Robin Morgan, an award-winning poet and author. The Attacca Quartet, an internationally acclaimed ensemble, returned to the stage with esteemed local musicians, clarinetist and event co-founder John Stine, Chappaqua, NY, and pianist Gena Raps, New York, NY.

Dr. Eger, a former PDF Board Member living with Parkinson’s, is the co-founder of Music for Parkinson's Research. The local volunteer group hosts the concert each year, which has raised nearly $500,000 for Parkinson’s research since inception.

“Music for Parkinson’s Research does a wonderful service to the community year after year by bringing together guests to share their love of the arts, while helping PDF to fund the most promising research to find a cure,” says PDF President Robin Elliott.


Spence Family Dances to “Ernie’s Favorites”

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.



Jeni's Shuffle ~ Shake ~ Parkinson’s Awareness Celebrate

Jeni Jenkins PDF Champions Fundraiser

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.”


Happy Hour for Parkinson’s

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.”


Student Fundraisers

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.

PDF Champion Kate DeWitteAfter 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.

Visit Kate's Fundraising Page


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.

PDF Champion Deirdre Cruz

"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.

See Mrs. Cruz' Class in the Media


Fifth Grader Makes Potholders for Parkinson's

The following is a letter received by PDF:

PDF Champion Sarah Free

May 28, 2013

Dear Sir or Madame,

I would like to donate $52 to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation. As a fifth grader, I have been making potholders for Parkinson's as a school project at Deer Park Elementary in Owensboro, KY, to make our world a better place and help find a cure.


Sarah Free


Ole Miss Student Holds Quidditch Tournament for Parkinson’s Research

Megan Smith of Corinth, MS, used a touch of magic on her college campus to help make a difference for people with Parkinson’s disease. She hosted a “Quidditch for Parkinson’s” tournament at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) to benefit PDF on October 20, 2012.

After completing a high school research project on Parkinson’s disease, Ms. Smith was inspired to study biology at Ole Miss with her eye on pursuing a career in the research field. Passionate about the Parkinson’s cause, she organized a creative fundraiser inspired by the popular “Harry Potter” novels written by J.K. Rowling.  Teams of seven players “rode” broomsticks and scored points by throwing a ball into the elevated ring-shaped goals on the intramural fields.

“I wanted to do something different and fun to get students aware of Parkinson’s disease. Why should I wait until I get my doctorate of philosophy to help make a difference? I can do something right now to help find a cure for Parkinson’s disease by raising funds for research,” she said.


Keene State Student “Steps for a Cure” and Raises $1,000

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.



Teacher, Five-Time PDF Champion, Climbing Mountains for Parkinson's Research

PDF Champion Rachel Isenberg Rachel Isenberg of Philadelphia, PA, raised $4,443 for PDF after climbing the 14,505 foot Mount Whitney in CA, the tallest mountain in the contiguous US, on August 25, 2013.

Taking on physical challenges for charity has become a summer tradition for Ms. Isenberg. The English language instructor and tennis professional has already raised more than $10,000 for PDF to honor her mother who lives with the disease. Her physical endeavors include a 438-mile bike ride across Pennsylvania, a half marathon, a climb of Mount Kilimanjaro and a 468-mile bike ride across Iowa. The cause is especially close to her heart as her late grandfather also lived with Parkinson's.

"These summer challenges for Parkinson's research give me an outlet to make a difference, set a goal and bring together a community around a cause," says Ms. Isenberg.

Visit Rachel's Fundraising Page


Airline Manager Swims Across Lake Belle Taine in Honor of Mother

PDF Champion Eric YoungAtlanta, GA resident Eric Young swam more than five and a half miles across Lake Belle Taine in Nevis, MN on July 6, 2013 in memory of his late mother, Barbara Vandergraft, who lived with Parkinson’s for more than 27 years. He surpassed his initial fundraising goal and raised $7,000 to benefit PDF.
Mr. Young, 40, a native of Rosemount, MN, worksEric Young and mother as a manager of charter flights with Delta Airlines. He and his mother spent much time together at their family’s cabin on Lake Belle Taine, which has stood since 1902. After watching how Parkinson’s disease affected his mother and limited her mobility, he was motivated to make a difference.

“Parkinson’s is a dreadful disease. The name isn’t out there as much as other diseases but the effects are just as devastating,” says Mr. Young. “No one has ever swum the entire lake before and knowing the special connection my mom had with our cabin and the lake, I wanted to be the first to do it in her name to hopefully find a cure and raise awareness of Parkinson’s.” 

Visit Eric's Fundraising Page


Softball Teams Pitch in for Parkinson's Awareness Month

PDF Champions PJ High School SoftballThe 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.

Visit Port Jervis' Fundraising Page


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. PDF Champion Jennifer NeatheryHaving 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.

Visit Jennifer's Fundraising Page


College Student Paddles Against Parkinson's in Honor of Grandmother

PDF Champion Cody LedsworthCody 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.

Visit Cody's Fundraising Page

See Cody in the Media


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.

PDF Champions Faircloth 5K

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


Ohio Family Fights Parkinson’s with First Annual Golf Outing

North Canton, OH resident Patricia Stalder asked her community to take a swing at Parkinson's disease. She hosted the First Annual Barr-Stalder Golf Outing at the Arrowhead Golf Club in North Canton on June 22, 2013. The event, which also featured 18 holes of golf and a pool party, raised $3,000 for PDF. PDF Champion Patricia Stalder

Mrs. Stalder, 36, is the founder of Live, Laugh, Give Charities, which holds events to support various causes. After her mother was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson's disease last year at the age of 55, Mrs. Stalder was motivated to direct her organization's efforts toward a very personal cause.

"That day when my mother was diagnosed, my family felt our world was ending. Organizing this event gives me a way to honor my mother's struggle with this disease. I want to do all I can to help other families who feel like their world is ending," she says.



Adult Day Center Hosts Holiday Bazaar for Parkinson’s

Holiday BazaarMarlene O'Donnell, L.P.N., C.D.P., and the SarahCare of the Lehigh Valley adult day center in Allentown, PA, hosted a Holiday Bazaar on December 7, 2013, and helped raise more than $1,000 for PDF!

The Holiday Bazaar was open to the public and featured holiday items for purchase ranging from jewelry and candles to fragrances and bags. Guests also enjoyed cookies, tea and games of bingo, with proceeds benefitting PDF.Holiday Bazaar

“Our motivation for organizing the bazaar was to honor the people we care for who are living with Parkinson’s,” said Ms. O’ Donnell, a nurse director at the center which provides care to older adults and their families.


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.

PDF Champions Roxanne LevineMs. 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.

Visit Roxanne's Fundraising Page


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. 

PDF Champion Stacey Catapano"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.”