Team Parkinson Finds Success at the 2013 LA Marathon - 03/27/2013

Team Parkinson has three major goals in the LA Marathon each year:
1) To raise awareness
2) To raise money for scientific research
3) To help Parkinson’s disease patients and their families to improve the quality of life for everyone who suffers from this debilitating disease. 

How do we measure our success in these goals?  Well, we could do it by the numbers-- like total dollars contributed, or number of participants per event, or a participant quality survey of the Team Parkinson experience, but success in these goals is not always simply a matter of numbers.  The challenges we face are different each year. 

Here are some indicators of our success this year:

1) Raising Awareness-- Our presence in the community was well represented by more than 110 walkers and runners wearing our distinctive blue t-shirts in the 5k, and the sound of our name being called out frequently at the finish line. In the marathon we had more than 30 participants, and our cheering station was visible to all the marathon finishers.

2) Raising money for research—All together the Team raised more than $79,000 dollars and that number is still growing.

3) Improving Quality of life--The event brought many new faces into the Parkinson’s community and gave those newcomers an opportunity to set healthy goals for themselves and their families. The Carbo-load Dinner also provided hope and inspiration for the future.

Clearly, the numbers are only one measure of success for Team Parkinson in the many aspects of the LA Marathon event.

The 2013 LA Marathon events may take place over a single weekend in March, but the preparation really starts much earlier.  The LA Marathon committee calls the Official Charities representatives together in the fall to begin planning for the event.  Our first major piece of the complex plan was the 5K Training Team, led by Sarah Ingersoll of USC’s Department of Neurology, which kicked off a series of training runs at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena in January.  The team met every Thursday morning right up to race weekend with their coach, Steve Mackel, for stretching, walking and team support. Their motto is “train focused.”

Then there was the Communications Team. Working with support personnel at The Parkinson Alliance, Team Parkinson sent out a continuous stream of electronic messages to those registering for the events.  After months of careful communications, our emails and postings on social media sites like Facebook and Twitter reached a crescendo as race weekend approached.  These notices covered the many complex aspects of registration and fundraising.  The Alliance also provided help with tracking the contributions since sometimes donors forget to tell us who they are supporting, in spite of our sophisticated software system.  

 The two-day Expo was back in the LA Convention center for the first time in three years. Even though the weather turned out to be perfect, it was still a significant relief not to worry about getting rained on in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. Carol Walton, CEO of the Parkinson Alliance, joined John and Edna Ball, co-chairs of Team Parkinson, and John’s sister, Kippi Stolz, in setting up and manning the LA Marathon Expo booth. Friday morning the expo got underway and traffic was brisk throughout most of the day.  Representatives from the team’s premier sponsor Abbvie (formerly Abbott laboratories) Shelley Byrum and Todd Lang joined Team Parkinson and encouraged passersby to sign-in on the Wall of Hope.  Abbvie will grant $15 toward scientific research for each signature posted on the Wall. Throughout the two days of the Expo, approximately 1000 signatures were collected.

The first thing on Saturday morning was the Big 5k run at Dodger stadium.  The course starts at the stadium and follows a path through Elysian Park up and down a couple of big hills before turning back toward the stadium for the finish.  It’s a tough course, particularly for those affected by Parkinson’s, but Team Parkinson was superbly represented by over 110 runners and walkers.  Sarah’s 5K Training Team, at least 30 members strong, was augmented by many large contingents, including Team Martinez, Debbie Jew’s team from Dutton Plumbing, the RUN DMC team, Team Wong, Team Lynn, Eddie Schindler’s team, Team Miller and Team Albert. Everyone from Team Parkinson in the race finished, including Carol Walton, and John and Edna Ball.  After the 5k, they headed back to the LA Convention Center for the second day of the expo. A special thanks to Doug and Mimi MacGlashan for closing up the Expo booth at the end of the day.

Our Carbo-load dinner on Saturday night was attended by over 100, thanks to the generous support provided by our sponsor, Lee Stacy and The Car Group, and the diligence of our dinner coordinator, Monica Hirschberger.  Thanks also to the staff at Taix French Restaurant. They get better each year.   Among those attending the dinner were many of the founding members of Team Parkinson who met in Mary Yost’s living room in 1999 to create this team, as well as faithful members no longer able to run for the team. They included Kim and Matt Seidmann, Mary Yost and Nancy Williamson, Steve and Roberta Greenberg, May May and Muhammad Ali, Jr. and Susan Klein and Rod Preston. Such loyalty and dedication should not go unnoticed.  Our speakers for the dinner’s program included Carol Walton (The Parkinson Alliance), Todd Lang (Abbvie), John and Edna Ball and Dr. Jeff Bronstein (UCLA Dept of Neurology). Dr. Bronstein’s presentation was a very inspiring review of current progress on treatments for Parkinson’s that may impact the course of the disease. After his talk, he answered several questions.  At the end of the evening, Edna Ball presented an award to the Top Fundraising Team.  The prize went to team RUN DMC, led by the Jarratt family, for bringing in a little over $8,000. All in all, the dinner was a very uplifting experience for many, including both old-timers in the group and new members as well.

Sunday morning was the pay-off for those who focus on the marathon and the two-person marathon relay.  It was an almost perfect day for the race, with cool temperatures and overcast skies.  The marathon runners and first-half relay team members assembled at Dodger Stadium while the second-half relay team members were shuttled to the halfway point in West Hollywood, and the non-runners made their way to the cheering station at mile 25 in Santa Monica.  It took a rather sophisticated logistics plan to make sure everyone got to the proper place, but it all worked out.  Our first Team Parkinson marathon finisher was Thomas Schumann (3:03), followed by Christopher Jew (3:10), Diana Pacheco (4:00), Summer Jarratt (4:03), Matt Sayer (4:17), Chain Lee (4:23), Arthur Fitzmaurice (4:27), Thomas Beck (4:30), Oscar Carias (4:44), Rissa Jarratt (5:03), and Doug MacGlashan (5:47). The marathon relay participants included Mimi MacGlashan, Susan, Sarah and Jordan Saxonberg, Truyan Dang, May May Ali, Carol Walton, Alex and Darren Nebesar, Dylan and Susan Sayer, Ann Eckels and Corinna Shoji., Monica Hirschberger and her partner, and Nancy Bargman and Anna Rodriguez.   All the marathoners and relay teams, with one exception, completed their efforts.  John Ball couldn’t make it to the start-line due to a sore left foot. He plans to be back next year, ready to run. Finally, a special thank you goes to David Ball and Lisa Adams for their photographic expertise on race day and throughout the weekend.

What is it that makes this experience of Team Parkinson special?  It is not an organization in the traditional sense. It has no membership list, no dues, no organizational chart, and no full-time paid staff. And yet it has survived and thrived for more than a decade and raised more than two million dollars for research into Parkinson’s disease. But like I said at the beginning, it’s not just about the numbers.  The success of Team Parkinson is based on a very special group of people coming together around a challenging event year after year.  The marathon, with nearly 25,000 participants, is a big, newsworthy event, and thus provides an opportunity to increase Parkinson’s awareness.  It requires preparation to finish a marathon, and thus provides a target for people to aim at and focus their training on.  Training is easier in a group setting and thus brings people together for mutual support.  The success of Team Parkinson is based not just on the strength of its numbers, or the size of its organization; it is based on the values it lives by, those values of loyalty, hope and love.
Newcomer to Team Parkinson, Barbara Miller, sent this message to everyone who supported her efforts at fundraising:


"I am one very lucky lady to have each of you in my life.  Your love and generosity overwhelmed Phil and I.  My goal of $1,000 was no match for you guys.  You gave over $2,000 toward research to help find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

The photo shows the Miller family finishing the 5K.  We were part of an amazing group called Team Parkinson that is one of the official charities of the LA Marathon.  We started out with a huge group of people – some serious runners – and the rest of us just glad to be part of something special.  There were lots of small children, dogs, handicapped folks etc. all walking and smiling, and wonderful cheerleaders and volunteers cheering us all on.  It brought more than one tear to my eyes.

Phil was one of the last to finish, but you can see how happy he looks.  We walked in together as a family along with Sarah Ingersoll, our team sponsor, who stayed with Phil the whole way.  Our dear Team Parkinson friends remained at the finish line to cheer in the Millers and celebrate our victory over PD. What a blessing it is to have such warm, caring friends…Thank you.”



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View Photos from LA 2013!