The Success of Team Parkinson L.A. was a "Team" Effort - 03/19/2006

Team Parkinson at the Los Angeles Marathon

March 19, 2006

The City of Los Angeles Marathon takes months of preparation for everyone involved; from the race organizers to the City Council, and from the Motion Picture Academy to the man in the street. Wait a minute – did I say the Motion Picture Academy? Yes, indeed, the Academy got involved this year as they decided to hold the Academy Awards on the weekend normally reserved for the LA Marathon…So, we got a two week extension in our training plan. The delay favored some and hurt others. Unfortunately, my training partners and I fell into the latter category. Mark Saxonberg, my closest training buddy and the real spirit of our group, injured his hamstring on our last big training run, and I went down with back spasms just five days before the race. Mark was able to recover enough to walk through the marathon, but I couldn’t recover in time to even walk it with him. My eleventh consecutive LA Marathon ended at the three mile mark. So my string of consecutive LA finishes is broken at ten. I prefer to call it a strategic retreat, rather than a failure. I decided to give myself some more healing time, rather than force the effort and risk more serious injury. I’ll be back to run another day. But I’m getting way ahead of myself.

On the whole, I would have to call the weekend a smashing success! Even the weather was cooperative, as the rain stopped on Saturday and Sunday was cool, clear and bright. Although I may have missed my individual target, Team Parkinson met or exceeded every one of our team goals. We had our biggest group of athletes ever - with over 150 participants in the weekend’s events. We had our most successful Carbo-load dinner with over 135 team members, family and guests attending. Our two featured speakers, Dr. Oleg Kopyov and Dr. Jeff Bronstein were both very informative and optimistic about the future of Parkinson’s research and treatment. And we exceeded even our most optimistic estimates in fundraising. With one additional event still on our calendar (our upcoming 1st Annual Team Parkinson Golf Tournament) we just passed the $180,000 mark for the fiscal year. Several new members, including Jonathon Ruiz and Gregory Wilson, joined Team Parkinson in the last few weeks before the event that helped push us over the top.

The overall growth in participation, a change in venue for the dinner, and the increased fundraising would not have been possible without the dedicated efforts of many, many people. The list of those contributors is so long it truly stretches from coast to coast. It starts in New Jersey with Carol Walton and the staff of The Parkinson Alliance. They provide Team Parkinson with both direction and support of the highest order. Carol’s leadership, and Terri, Valentina, Lauren, Laurie and Trina’s support all are so important to keeping The Alliance and Team Parkinson functioning day to day. Additional support, inspiration and recognition have been drawn from New York, Miami and Washington, DC. Thanks to Ruth Hagestuen of the National Parkinson Foundation, Robin Elliott of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and Amy Comstock of the Parkinson’s Action Network for their efforts at the World Parkinson Congress to make Team Parkinson a visible player in the world of patient advocates. Particular thanks to Carol and Robin for their continuous efforts to get Team Parkinson attention in the national media.

The same is true on the local level. We are blessed to have some very special volunteers who bring their expertise to the aid of Team Parkinson. Our honorary team captain, May May Ali was once again supporting our efforts at the media luncheon and in the marathon on race day. Justine Lassoff, Laurence Cohen and Jennifer Cody have worked diligently to keep us visible in the media, and Karen Kalan of the LA Marathon staff has looked out for us at every turn. The doctors, researchers and staff at the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at USC’s Keck Medical School have been extremely supportive. Drs. Michael Jakowec, Giselle Petzinger and Mickie Welsh have been especially attentive and helpful. Unfortunately, Dr. Jakowec, who was training to run his second marathon for Team Parkinson, was another casualty of the delayed race. He spent the weekend in the hospital - recovering from a burst appendix. Thanks also must go to Drs. Bronstein of UCLA and Kopyov of the California Neuroscience Institute for their presentations at the dinner.

With over 100 team members participating in the 5K, it would be impossible to thank them all individually. But since I dropped out of the marathon, I got to witness that sea of blue shirts in the 5K for the first time - and it was impressive. I did see that we had at least two trophy winners as Ruth Cole took a second place in her age group and Jerry Woudenberg finished third in his.

The bike ride was once again too early for me to see many of the finishers, but I do know that Team Parkinson was well-represented by Bill Curry and his son Todd, and Ted Bean and his daughter Dana. Newcomer Gregory Wilson was also riding for Team Parkinson in honor of his father, Neal. Gregory was a last minute addition to the team but he set a furious pace in his fundraising. If he rides as fast as he raises money, look out!

The marathon was exciting, even as a spectator. This year I got to cheer our team members as they passed by our station on the side of Olympic Boulevard. We had a special treat as David James Elliott, who played “Harm” on the popular TV show JAG, wore our running uniform in the marathon and finished in around 4 and ½ hours. His training partner, Kevin Compayre, a sound man in the TV industry, also wore our colors and finished close to the four hour mark. Our fastest runner this year - also a first-timer - was Eric Kramer, who ran in honor of his dad, Rick, and finished in 3:46.3. Other sub-4 hour runners included Avery Abernathy and Kin Kui. Abernathy, a PD researcher at USC, finished in 3:51:39. He was one of many with new PR’s(personal record) for the day. Kin Kui made it through in 3:59:32. Others with PRs for the day included Mimi MacGlashan, David Ball, Stacy Palenbaum, Chris Barthell and Dan Kiefer. Dan is the tenth member of Team Parkinson to finish the marathon in spite of PD. His success in the marathon far outweighs my own decision not to continue in the race. Like I said, the weekend was a smashing success.

Top fundraiser as usual was Aaron Moretzsky with over $15,000. Aaron’s Angels also took top honors in the team competition, followed by Dan’s Bradykinesia Bunch, Team Albert, For Uncle Ron, and the Super N’s. Edna and I believe that adding the team competition to the fundraising has added a new dimension to our fundraising.

One final note: None of this success would have been possible without the continuous on-going efforts of my wife and co-chair, Edna. She is the true star of this show we call Team Parkinson. Her dedication and follow through make all the rest possible. We also thank my sister Kippi Stolz who came in from Denver to help out, my parents, Betty and Bill Ball, and our children, David and Sarah.

John Ball

Team Parkinson, Co-Chair

View photos from the event here