Team Parkinson Passes the $1Million Mark! - 03/19/2007

Carol Walton, Executive Director of The Parkinson Alliance, our parent organization, made the very exciting announcement at our LA Marathon Carbo Dinner that Team Parkinson had passed the million dollar mark since our inception in 2000! It was a proud moment for us all.

As we reflect on Team Parkinson 2007 at the Los Angeles Marathon, a theme begins to emerge. The theme is one of courage. Some might call it stubbornness, but we prefer to see it as courage and character that just won’t quit. This is fitting, as we dedicated this year’s event to the memory of long time Team Parkinson member Dr. Marty Polonsky. Marty wasn’t a quitter and personified courage in always showing up for events despite the physical and logistical problems he faced.

The Expo

After months of behind the scenes work, our race weekend started with two days at the Quality of Life Expo at the Los Angeles Convention Center, where we had a booth. It’s always a pleasure for us to meet for the first time so many of the people we communicate with by phone and e-mail over the course of the campaign. It’s also great to reconnect with old friends who have been loyal members of Team Parkinson for years, and to sign up new members as well. We got a real kick this year out of our huge teams coming to the Expo to pick up their t-shirts and haul off bags full, especially for Team Ackerberg and Team Frankel. What great spirit our teams showed!

The Dinner

On the Saturday evening before race day, we hosted a carbo loading dinner for over 100 people at Taix French Restaurant in Los Angeles. It was a wonderful evening coordinated by Justine Lassoff, complete with runner-shaped cookies as party favors! The dinner was delicious, the service great and the program very informative and inspiring. Our two very distinguished guest speakers were Dr. Giselle Petzinger of USC and Dr. Yvette Bordelon of UCLA. These researchers may be from rival schools but they are of one mind in their work to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Each spoke of ongoing research and explained how vitally important funding is. It was very motivating for everyone to learn how their fundraising efforts make a huge difference.

John Ball introduced the very courageous athletes with Parkinson’s disease who would be running the marathon. This year there were four with PD who would compete in the entire 26.2-mile run! Kudos to John, Roar Eikenes of Norway, Gary Miller and Willard Krick. These four have completed over 100 marathons between them--some pre and some post their Parkinson’s diagnosis. Now that’s amazing! John also acknowledged several others with PD who would participate in the 5K and bike ride—Dan Kiefer, Jerry Woudenberg, Steve Frankel, Tim Wong, Maureen Marcellino, Lisette Ackerberg, Madeleine Lieber and Carlos Montalvo. The dinner served as a pep rally for runners, walkers, riders, fundraisers, researchers and volunteers on the eve of race day.

We were very excited to show our new Team Parkinson DVD that captured what this organization is all about. It features the LA Marathon events from last year, as well as our San Francisco effort and our golf tournament.

In addition to the very exciting announcement that Team Parkinson had passed the million dollar mark, we acknowledged the incredible contribution of Aaron and Harriet Moretzsky, who have raised over $100,000 over the past few years.

Then the Grand Prize winner was announced, this year going to new members Steve and Lynn Frankel, who headed up the amazing Team Frankel, and raised over $30,000!

Race Day

Sunday March 4th dawned sunny and a bit warmer than we had hoped for the marathon runners. The bike riders were happy to have the warmth as they started their ride at 6am and the 5K runners and walkers didn’t mind the sun either for their 7:30am start. Team Parkinson had 10 participants in the bike ride, 100 in the 5K and 24 in the full marathon! Our blue t-shirts really stood out!

The Team Parkinson cheering section was set up at mile 19 and many of us spent the day there watching the 5K participants first and then the marathon runners go by. Some incredible stories were in the making as race day unfolded.

In the 5K we had a new member, Carlos Montalvo. His wife had called us just days before the race explaining that Carlos had heard about the event and insisted on participating despite using a walker. Mrs. Montalvo was doubtful that her husband could actually do this, but Carlos was determined. On race day, it was with great difficulty that Carlos made his way on the 5K course, actually falling several times. Many of our Team Parkinson members stopped to help him. Near the end of the 5K, I noticed that Tracy Wong, a steadfast member of The Wong Family team was walking with Carlos and not with her own father, Tim. I asked her what was going on and she said, “It is called Team Parkinson and Carlos needed help.” I became so emotional because this is exactly what we’re about. Tracy totally personifies what Team Parkinson is. Here is Tracy’s e-mail, sent the following day:

Hello John and Edna,

It is Tracy from the Wong family. Congratulations on the run!! You guys are the greatest!

I was feeling really disappointed in myself this morning because I was not able to do the Bike ride as I had planned. On the way to the marathon my father played the Team Parkinson's DVD that he received from last night’s dinner. I started to tear up when I heard John talk about how the team was at the 19th mile mark, but they waited for the others because they were a "Team." As I was walking the 5k with my children and family I saw a man with a Team Parkinson's shirt on the side of the street. Some of our Parkinson’s Team members were gathered around him to see if he was okay. I waited around to see if this gentleman was going to be okay. I introduced myself to him and he did so as well. His name was Carlos. After staying with him for a while I was going to start my run again, but I remembered what John had said in the video "We are TEAM Parkinson." I stayed and the both of us started walking together. Carlos was determined to finish the walk, so I was determined to stay right by his side until we got to the finish line.

I am glad to say that I have met a new friend!

I want to thank you, John and Edna for always inspiring me with all you do. I think I have become a better person because of Team Parkinson. Love you guys!!

Tracy Wong

In the 5K it was such a joy to see all our participants running and walking for the cause. Jerry Woudenberg and Jan Duffy each finished second in their age groups and Ruth Cole finished first in hers! The teams were fabulous this year, creating a giant sea of blue. The Frankels, Ackerbergs, Wongs, Liebers and Team Albert were all out there in full force!

As the 5K ended, we had a little break before the marathoners started coming through. We had the use of a hospitality room at the Holiday Inn across the street from our cheering section. Our hostesses, Mary Yost and Nancy Williamson, did an excellent job of providing hot coffee, juices and snacks galore. This was a perfect way to take a break before the hard work of the spectator sport of cheering on the marathoners!

For Team Parkinson, Ryan Albu was our frontrunner. Ryan is a new member, recruited by long time member Ann Eckels, who was also running the marathon. Ryan had some difficulties with injuries but his courage and commitment come through in this excerpt from an e-mail he sent:

We joined the Snails Pace running club in Pasadena to meet people and learn the local trails, and I met Ann Eckels. She mentioned to Erin and I that she runs LA for Team Parkinson every year. As two of my grandparents have suffered from Parkinson’s I decided to sign up. I wrote my letter to all of my friends and raised over $600.

Somehow I ran the last 21 miles with 2 pulled hamstrings, and I ran those 21 for Team Parkinson. Had I not done this fundraiser, I would've saved my legs and walked after I hit the wall at about mile 14.

I am seeing a physical therapist right now and I have 2 huge bruises on the backs of my legs. They seem to be healing and I hope to try to go out for a really slow run next weekend. Back to the drawing board for qualifying for Boston, and many lessons have been learned. It was very rewarding to run this race and raise money, and I felt like my 21-mile sacrifice was worth it.

Ryan Albu

The most amazing story of the day came from Roar Eikenes, our runner from Norway. Remember that Roar has Parkinson’s disease. On Friday evening Roar started to have a toothache. By Saturday evening at the carbo dinner, the right side of his face was swollen and he was in obvious pain. On Sunday, Roar didn’t do what most of us would have, stay in bed and watch the race on TV in our hotel room. Roar got up, took the Metro to the race start and proceeded to tackle the 26.2-mile course with a horrendous toothache and infection. At the cheering section we waited and waited to see our Norwegian friend. Unfortunately he didn’t carry a cell phone so we had no way of contacting him. His family also waited anxiously. Finally two of his daughters set out on the course to try and find him. They all showed up at last. We learned that Roar had collapsed a couple of times. We tried to get him to stop at mile 19 and call it a day. But the stubbornness kicked in and off they went, his daughters accompanying him for the final seven grueling miles. Now that’s gutsy! Here is a man with Parkinson’s disease who has come all the way from Norway for this race, and he’s not about to quit. Here is his e-mail to us a few days later:

Hello John and Edna!
After exciting days in LA we are back in Norway. At eight o’clock this morning my dentist start operation LA-toothache, root filling when the inflammation is gone, and then ready for new events.

As I see it today: Not to participate will be the right thing. But on the race day I say to my self: you have not traveled from Norway to LA only to be a spectator.

But after a few steps I felt the toothache like a hammer knocked me in the face for each step. The pain was increasing for each mile and at about half race I nearly collapsed. And at the end of the race even the spectators go faster than me!

LA marathon 2007 is the longest and most painful marathon I ever done. Now it is history and I am looking forward to the next race to participate. Next marathon will be in May, The Great Wall of China Marathon, without toothache I hope.


Courage comes in many forms and we saw a lot of it in our Team Parkinson 2007 effort at the Los Angeles Marathon. We’d like to thank each and every one of you for your participation as runners, walkers, riders, volunteers, fundraisers and researchers. This is a labor of love for us and we hope that one day in the not-too-distant future, we’ll gather for a huge celebration party because the cure will have been found and we all will have been instrumental in making it happen.