On April 2, PCRF hosted its 7th annual Golf for the Cure for Parkinson’s at Lake Ashton Club in Winter Haven, Florida. Despite thunder storms with heavy rain, the event was a bright spot for us during Parkinson’s Awareness month.
As always, the Lake Ashton community came together to support us and others on this Parkinson’s journey. TeamFox friends from around the state joined us and Sam Fox from the Foundation for our event.
This year was the first year I have fully allowed the entire Harmon family an equal say in event details and planning. Those who know the Harmon ladies won’t be surprised, when I say “I could not have done it without them.” In fact, I should have done it long ago.
This year we had a Marquis Partner, Family Elder Law from neighboring Lake Wales. In addition to expense and volunteer support, they agreed to match 10% of monies we raised for the Michael J Fox Foundation.
Due to the support and hard work of everyone, I am proud to announce that we raised over $48,000 – 100% of these monies will go directly to research by the Fox Foundation.
In a little over a month, I will celebrate the tenth anniversary of my diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Ten years ago, I was working and Cecily was not, and both of our girls were still in college. I was healthy or at least I thought I was, and I was fully engaged in the pursuit of the American dream. Then the doctor’s visit where I heard “You have Parkinson’s disease “which shifted my reality. With Cecily’s help, I was able to adjust to this new chapter of my life.
Parkinson’s has given me an endless task of pills and physical challenges. I am not complaining. I am fortunate that the disease is progressing slowly, but we can’t stop the march of time.
Parkinson’s has also given us a new community that participates in our journey. This community consists of a number of entities. First and foremost of which is a stronger family unit. The Harmon “Wonder Women” have shared the good, bad and the ugly. They are the foundation of our journey with PD.
Second is our friends, new or old. Without them, we are an empty shell. Thirdly is our TeamFox family. They make me laugh and they make me cry with their extraordinary feats and accomplishments. When we meet old Foxes or new ones, there is an instant bonding and understanding. The PD Warriors, whether part of TeamFox or not, make up a strong brotherhood of support and love that makes this journey much easier. Their focus is not on how many times they fall, but how many times they get back up.
So, my time with Parkinson’s has passed quickly. We have not found the cure, yet. We are moving forward. A number of promising research projects are in trials that may relieve symptoms and be almost as good as a cure. But that is not enough. We have lost too many of our fellow warriors, with the passage of time.
Recently, our family joined TeamFox in a 10K at the Disney Marathon weekend. When I crossed the finish line, I reflected on friends who have passed away with PD this year. I realized we are not doing enough. TIME IS OUR ENEMY!
THE TIME IS NOW TO RE-DEDICATE MYSELF TO FINDING A CURE. PLEASE JOIN ME. LET’S END THIS DISEASE.
Lately I’ve felt like I haven’t really been contributing much to the cause. I find myself in more of a background role, itching to get started again on a new Parkinson’s project.
Emily and I went up to Morristown, N.J., recently for a friend’s fundraiser, and I was telling Stephanie, from the Michael J. Fox Foundation how I was feeling. She reminded me that in supporting those people and getting others involved in the cause, I’m still doing something amazing.
The next week, I really got to see this in action at the Philadelphia Marathon. And I’m so grateful.
Recently, I had the absolute honor to be a panelist at the Partner’s in Parkinson’s event in Philadelphia.
What’s Partners in Parkinson’s? It’s a newish initiave from the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Abbvie to help Parkinson’s patients get the full benefit of a team when it comes to their journey. What’s that mean? Well, you can attend events to learn more about how you can help and about PD in general. Or you could find a new specialist. Or you could get one-on-one support from an advocate.
It’s a really cool tool that I’ve personally be able to use to get someone help finding a doctor in New York from right here in York, Pa.
The Foundation asked me to come out to Philly to be the “adult child” of a person with Parkinson’s on a panel called “Building Connections with Family, Friends and Community.” The goal? To share my story and help these people find ways to get involved or get more information. Most of the people in attendance were either recently diagnosed or have recently decided to get involved.
We had a conference call to prep for the panel, but in the end, we were told to be ourselves (they know better!) and share our stories. Simple enough, right? Well, I got a little nervous on the way.
We started off the month with the whole family gathering for the 5th Annual Golf for the Cure. For those who remember last year where everyone told me “You did to much,” I made a pledge that I would get more help this year. Well, I lived up to that pledge and was fully recovered two days after the tournament. Thanks to all who helped me carry the load especially my family.
The event once again showed the generosity of the Lake Ashton community. We raised over $47,000 this year, which brings our five year total to over $200,000 (including matches through the Michael J Fox Foundation). The event also had a few surprises for Bob (I hate surprises). Since the event coincided with the MJFF MVP dinner, which we were unable to attend, and members of the foundation were unable to come to our event. Hence the surprise, we received a two-part video with Stephanie Paddock from the foundation and Michael J Fox with a personal message for our community and my family. Due to a production glitch, Emily’s name was left out. When the family told me of the problem the night before two things happened. The foundation went out of their way to send a letter to Em and a picture from Michael thanking her during MVP. But the best thing that happened was Emily’s immediate response. She said: “Dad this isn’t about me, it’s about finding a cure.” Boy, does she get it or what.
So, thank you again to all those who helped us, all of the donors, and to the Lake Ashton community, you are part of the effort to Find the Cure. Thank you Emily for reminding me of the lessons we have previously learned.
Almost two years ago, I met a man through the Michael J Fox Foundation mentor program named John Ryan. I was immediately drawn to him because of his outgoing personality. I don’t know if John has ever met a stranger. Needless to say we became friends, and now call each other “my brother from another mother.” John was running his first half marathon right after we first met which was a challenge for him. Somewhere along the way John began talking about running in the NYC marathon. I told him if he crazy enough to do it I would be there to support him.
Well, he was crazy enough and last weekend I found myself in NYC along with Cecily and Kate (Emily was not able to join us because of work). My promise to John not only was being fulfilled, but Kate had pitched an offer to the Foundation to take pictures of the event, which included bringing Jason Plotkin, an Emmy award winning photo journalist, and his wife Melissa. So instead of just being there to see John, we were included in the Fox Foundation weekend race plans.
This weekend rates number three in my life’s best moments, only after marrying my wife, Cecily, and the birth of our twins. Sorry hole-in-one you weren’t even close. It wasn’t because we were in close proximity to Michael J Fox, his family, and members of the cast from his new television show, but it is because we were part of a large community of people with a common cause — the cure for Parkinson’s disease. Within this group there is an intense bonding process that goes well beyond normal friendships. There is no single hero, but hundreds of friends supporting the runners and thousands more who weren’t there physically, but were in spirit. Sure, the runners were running for themselves, but many of them had the name of the person they were running for in their pocket or on their shirts. What they may not have realized prior to the race was that they were running for all of us in the Parkinson’s community.
At our cheering section, we spent the day cheering for those we knew and those we didn’t know. We laughed, yelled and even shed a tear or two (buckets). There were moments of understanding that we can do more, and there were moments of pride in our friends who were running, but the realization of the power of the relationships we had and were building was overwhelming. This experience that I had was happening on every block of the race. Not for Parkinson’s but for many different reasons. On one side trip (to find a restroom), I even heard a spectator yell “go runners.”
There were two moments in the day that stand out in my mind, as really special. The first was when John Ryan, Tim Ryan, Sue Bilotta, Gwen Schroeder, and AJ Capuzzi (a neighbor of John’s who was not a runner, but offered to join him) reached our cheering section. The police had done a great job of keeping spectators off the street, until then. Grown men cried and hugged (not me of course- any pictures to the contrary are photo shopped), beautiful sweaty women warriors were embraced and high-fived, husbands were congratulated by their family (eventually). All of it was captured on tape until the camera woman (Kate) was drawn into the celebration. Here’s the video, but as a warning, bring a Kleenex.
The second moment was when Mike Kelly, a new friend of mine, reached us. He had started later and it was getting cold (actually colder) and dark. He was freezing cold and tired, but he was determined. Before he reached the surging crowd, Michael J Fox met him with a hug and joined him to finish the race. As they took off up the street both Mikes broke into a run. Yep, a second bucket of tears. When I saw Mike Kelly after the race, at the post race party, his hands were so cold that I gave him my hand warmers (which were harder than if I had to give up my wife). This moment was not about the fact that Michael J Fox joined him, it was about his determination to finish and that people were there to support him, whether they were famous or not.
I know this feel good feeling will diminish over time, but not by much. It will lift me up when I am down. It will remind me if I think I can, then I can (think/able). I hope it will do the same for you. I can always go to the website and watch for a couple of minutes and be right back there.
Oh I forgot to mention John and Mike have Parkinson’s.
Last but not least, the big reveal- I will NOT be running in next year’s race- these guys and girls are crazy!