Updated: Apr 24, 2019
My wife and I attended the "Small Steps Big Strides" Gala for Parkinson's benefiting the Michigan Parkinson Foundation on October 19. This event, as the walk that we did in September, was a fund raiser for the Michigan Parkinson Foundation (MPF); but it was also a fun filled and informative evening! So I thought I would give you, my readers, a quick overview of the event, along with some very cool pics!
Why cool, you ask? Well, the event was held at The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI! The Henry Ford, as they call it, is an internationally recognized museum and a national historic landmark that displays an unparalleled collection of artifacts from 300 years of American history. Named for its founder, the automobile industrialist Henry Ford, it's really a collection of four venues: Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation, Greenfield Village, Ford Rouge Factory Tour and the Benson Ford Research Center. The museum collection contains such items as: The presidential limousine of John F. Kennedy, Abraham Lincoln's chair from Ford's Theatre, Thomas Edison's laboratory, the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop, the Rosa Parks bus, and many more historical exhibits. More than 1.7 million visitors annually experience the museum and surrounding venues. The gala was held at The Henry Ford Museum building, which was cool all on it's own - but we also had full unrestricted access to the museum itself!
We arrived at the museum that evening, had our car parked by valets, and then entered the main building. Both my wife and I have visited the museum before, but it is always kinda breathtaking to enter and go into the large open area inside with all the old artifacts surrounding you. Once in, we sat down at our table awaiting dinner. We met and talked with some of the other Parky folks we knew who also came from Kalamazoo, and of course met other people there with Parkinson's. It's a humbling experience to mingle with other Parkies - some further along in the disease process than you are, and some newly diagnosed or just in the early stages of PD. But what is always most encouraging to me is to know that I am not alone in this journey - there are many more out there in the same boat as I am in. Trust me, knowing this helps get one through day-by-day.
One of the things that I liked was the auctions - both silent and 'regular' - man, those auctioneers can talk mighty fast! The silent auction had a number of very nice items - but the one I 'coveted' the most was an autographed jersey and picture of one of my Parky heroes - Kirk Gibson of the Detroit Tigers! Gibby - as they call him - was on the 1984 "Roar of '84" Tigers team that won the World Series that year... and Gibby had a lot to do with the Tigers becoming the world champions. But he, like us, developed Parkinson's, and in 2015 he announced to the world that he was also now a 'Parky'. I've seen and heard him speak publicly at events, and am inspired by his drive and passion for helping others with PD. So when I saw the jersey was going to be on auction I immediately got the old checkbook ready.... Unfortunately, it sold for quite a bit more than what I was expecting (hoping?) it would be, which was out of my league (Get it? League?? hahaha... ugh, sorry) in terms of price... But I had to remember, this was a charity event with all proceeds going to the Michigan Parkinson Foundation, so I knew that the monies collected would help a lot of PD patients in Michigan. But how I would have LOVED to have hung that picture on a wall in my house..... <sniff>
We had a lovely and very tasty dinner, followed by some inspiration speeches and presentations. The MPF had a number of folks on it's staff speak about the MPF - how it started, it's mission, programs it provides, etc. This included the chair and CEO of the foundation. They then showed a video about the MPF, and guess who appeared in a number of those video shots? Yep, your's truly.... So here is that video for your viewing pleasure! (It's also available on the Videos page of this blog).
We also had some inspirational speeches, one of which I found very inspiring - and that was from Jeremy Clark. Jeremy, a school principal, was diagnosed with Parkinson's at the age of 33 - something that I simply can't image having at that early age. "The tremors started in my left hand,” he said. Being diagnosed at an early age (called early-onset Parkinson's) obviously has it's own unique set of challenges and difficulties. And, like a lot of us, he initially was worried and confused after his diagnosis; but that soon gave way to positivity and optimism. “This is just a condition of my body,” he said. “I want to do what I can to help others who have my condition.”
What struck me, though, was his reading of a letter to himself, which he wrote during one of those down periods we all have - it was a very somber, honest expression of how PD was affecting him, but also was inspiring and thought-invoking. I only wish I had been able to take notes, or find and publish to you all the contents of that letter - because I know you would find it as inspiring as I did.
And finally, of course, we got to go through the museum in it's entirety all by ourselves - we had the entire facility exclusively available to those of us at the event! I really love the artifacts here, and only wish I would have had more time to see all that I wanted to see. But here are some of my favorites: The Oscar Mayer "Weiner" Mobile; computer and arcade games of the 70's and 80's (you should know I would have been interested in those!), the Snoopy phone (yep I had one of those!) and the trains and locomotives. Those train engines are HUGE!
All in all, it was a great evening of good food, meeting friends - old and new- and seeing all the items in The Henry Ford Museum! And also, of course, the privilege of helping contribute to the MPF and all the Michigan Parkies out there (myself included!) whom they help. I am not sure exactly how much money was received that night for the foundation (if I find out I will let you now) but I am sure it was a good amount. So I am thankful we were able to attend, and thankful for all the others who came and contributed to the event! My only regret is not being able to get that Kirk Gibson framed jersey!! .... Hmm, Ebay perhaps?
My next blog entry will come out shortly - I'll be talking about a phrase we all use; but may not be well understood by those who hear it. Hopefully the explanation will help folks who interact with us to better understand how PD affects us. You won't want to miss it, so stay tuned!