When Charlie Ganter of Wilmington, Delaware, turned 50, he started playing basketball in Delaware’s Senior Olympics program. He played on teams representing the state at the National Senior Games three times—in 2003, 2005 and 2007. However, in 2005, Charlie’s defensive quickness and shooting percentage began dropping off. Later in the year, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 58.
With treatment, Charlie continued to play basketball regularly—half-court games, three to four times a week. He says it helped him manage his Parkinson’s—and make great friends. “I may have lost a step or two,” he says, “but I could still make the basket when I got an open look.” His consistent three-point shot won him the gold medal for basketball shooting in three annual Delaware Senior Olympics. On the court in 2008 and by his own admission, Charlie struggled while his Delaware Blue Bombers team won the silver medal in the Pennsylvania Senior Games, the gold medal in the Delaware Senior Olympics, and were the Gold Division (54 and older) Champion in the Delaware Senior 3-on-3 League.
With the realization his competitive basketball career was waning, Charlie accepted a position with the Delaware Senior Olympics—coordinator of their men’s basketball program. The two annual basketball tournaments that he began organizing in Delaware attracted more than 40 of the country’s best senior teams.
In 2011, Charlie assembled a team to compete in the Mid-Atlantic Senior 3-on-3 Basketball Championships. Intended as his last tournament, the team included six friends from as far away as New York City and Richmond, Virginia. Calling themselves “Team Fox,” they hoped to raise awareness for The Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Today, he’s still playing pick-up games with friends, including Peter Johnson, a teammate from his final tournament. But Charlie recently stepped down from his role as coordinator for Delaware Senior Olympics Basketball. He felt it was more than he could handle with his PD.
Now Charlie is leading a different kind of team. As a resident of Wilmington, Charlie had attended Delaware Pancakes for Parkinson’s for several years, a Team Fox event that’s raised over $200,000 for The Michael J. Fox Foundation since 2008. Charlie’s wife even surprised him by inviting their neighbors and his fellow players to join them at the Pancakes event. “I was amazed everyone showed up to support this cause for me. It means the world to me,” he says.
This month, Charlie and Peter are captaining one of the nine griddle teams for Delaware Pancakes for Parkinson’s. Leveraged from their many basketball contacts, their team is named Dribble and Griddle. You’ll find Charlie and Peter, along with the rest of their team, at the Sanford School on September 22, flipping flapjacks.
Charlie is excited for their first Team Fox event as members. And he’s especially looking forward to meeting their $3,000 fundraising goal. Thanks to the Foundation’s $50-million Brin Wojcicki Challenge, every dollar they raise will be doubled.
Initially, Charlie was concerned that their team wouldn’t receive contributions from those not living in Delaware. “But after my daughter, my first gift was from a guy in Baltimore with whom I’d played basketball,” he says.
Getting more involved with Team Fox isn’t all that keeps Charlie busy these days. A former marketing and communications manager, he ran his own agency for more than a decade, retiring five years ago. With two grown children, he and his wife have two younger children at home, where he enjoys playing “Mr. Mom.”
Charlie is also an advocate for participating in clinical research. Since his diagnosis, he has taken part in several interventional trials through the University of Pennsylvania, as well as genetic testing. The most important thing he has gained from his participation, he says, is hope. “I’m encouraged that there is still a chance for me to see something in my future—that will either stop or slow this disease.”