Wiffle ball golf tourney funds innovative Parkinson’s research at UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute

2023 Chipping Away at Parkinson’s Fundraiser Scheduled for Sept. 30

In the United States, nearly 90,000 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every year, according to the Parkinson's Foundation. It's the second-most common neurodegenerative disease behind Alzheimer's.

Despite its prevalence, when Paul Lake learned that at least four neighbors in the small East Cincinnati community of Brandonmore were dealing with the disease, it was four too many. Wanting to help, Lake partnered with a group of neighbors to create a unique fundraiser now in its eighth year – Chipping Away at Parkinson’s.

“Our neighborhood is full of close friends and family, so we felt we needed to do something to help,” Lake said. “Wiffle ball golf has been a quick, easy and inexpensive game played by my family and friends for years, so we decided to make a fundraising event around it.”

two people sitting at table with big check

Chipping Away at Parkinson's volunteers Julie Bressler and Bob Dames.

At its height, the event, which features an improvised 2.5-acre wiffle ball golf course across two backyards, has attracted more than 400 people. Featuring raffle prizes, winner trophies, a cook-out dinner and live music, it’s no surprise the event has seen such success with nearly $200,000 raised to date to benefit Parkinson’s research efforts.

“Raising so much money in just seven neighborhood outings is an amazing accomplishment for a truly grass-roots event,” said Bob Dames, one of the event’s co-founders. “The tournament has exploded into a regional event.”

Lake and co-organizers hope the dollars raised will prove difference-making for research efforts underway at the University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute. There, an internationally recognized team led by Alberto Espay, MD, is trying to move the needle in Parkinson’s research by redefining how the scientific community thinks about the disease. Espay, the director and endowed chair of the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, wants to approach Parkinson’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases, like oncologists treat cancer — not as a single disease, but as many individual molecular diseases.

“Our major contribution to the fabric of research is to understand the molecular subtypes of Parkinson's disease and to recognize each as separate diseases. Then, and only then, will we have our first success in disease modification, even if the treatment is initially applicable to fewer than five percent of those we call Parkinson's. But for that subgroup of Parkinson's disease, such a treatment will be a cure,” Espay said.

“Community-based fundraising and awareness efforts like the Chipping Away at Parkinson’s event provide vital boosts to our research, and we are so grateful to Paul and the Brandonmore neighbors for the support they’ve shown us over close to a decade now,” Espay added.

Community-based fundraising and awareness efforts like the Chipping Away at Parkinson’s event provide vital boosts to our research, and we are so grateful to Paul and the Brandonmore neighbors for the support they’ve shown us over close to a decade now.

Alberto Espay, MD

The 2023 Chipping Away at Parkinson’s event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 30.

“This event is the definition of ‘love thy neighbor,’ and there are so many ways to get involved and give back,” said Julie Bressler, who began volunteering just last year, leveraging her background in advertising and marketing to make an impact.

From sponsorship packages tailored to both businesses and individuals to ticket purchases to simply helping to spread the word, those looking to show their support have no shortage of options, she said. For more information about how to get involved with the 2023 Chipping Away at Parkinson’s event to support the critical research efforts of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, community members can email chippingawayatparkinsons@gmail.com.

Featured image: University of Cincinnati Gardner Neuroscience Institute. Photo/Chris Radcliffe for the UC Foundation.

Next Now

With its focus on innovation and impact, Next, Now: The Campaign for Cincinnati is where ambition meets action. At the University of Cincinnati and UC Health, we’re driven by next; thinking bolder and dreaming bigger to create the tomorrow we envision, today. Learn more at nextnow.uc.edu.

Headshot of Caitlin Whitehurst

Caitlin Whitehurst

For the UC Foundation

Caitlin Whitehurst is a writer living in Columbus, Ohio. She earned her MBA from the Carl H. Lindner College of Business in 2019.

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