When Bret Parker was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 38, he likened the experience to “getting run over by a truck and then having it back up and run over me again.” Once he was able to get over the initial shock, he kept his diagnosis a secret for 5 years before coming out in 2012 when a good friend decided to fundraise for The Michael J. Fox Foundation. It was at that point that Bret decided not to let Parkinson’s limit or define him, but instead to find a way to play an active role in helping find better treatments and a cure. “Team Fox allowed me to do all of that at once,” says Bret.
SP: In 2013 you chose a very unique Team Fox event – can you explain?
BP: Trying to make sure that PD wouldn’t define me, I decided to take it one step further and start working on my life bucket list. What better way to show that you’re going to keep living a full life than to tackle things you’ve been hoping to accomplish? Skydiving had always been something that terrified me but somehow called to me. So for a Team Fox event my friends and family pledged money for me to jump out of a plane! It was incredible and raised over $50,000 for Team Fox.
SP: Wow! How could you ever trump that?
BP: I started to think about what my next event would be, and doing a triathlon was perfect. As a child, I fell into a pool and almost drowned so I’ve been terrified of swimming my whole life. I’ve done marathons and even bicycled across the U.S., but doing any kind of a swim – forget a 1.5K swim as part of an Olympic-length triathlon – was almost unimaginable. But I thought what better way to overcome my fear and raise awareness and money for the Foundation – so I’ve signed up for the Mighty Hamptons Triathlon on September 5. This time my wife would be right beside me in training and doing the event (she’s an awesome swimmer).
SP: What fuels you to do these events?
BP: From a selfish perspective, I want a healthy future for me and the millions of patients around the world who suffer from Parkinson’s. It makes me feel good to be making a difference because having a disease with no cure can be frustrating; especially given how little control we have over it. The events have been fun, expanded my horizons and raised money and awareness. To date, my wife and I have raised nearly $200,000 for Team Fox.
SP: Do you have any future event ideas lined up?
BP: I’ve got plenty of ideas, but I really wouldn’t mind an easy one next year! And perhaps I can find one that speaks to my sense of adventure without being scared.
SP: What do you hope others gain from your story?
BP: I hope that patients who read about this get hope that there are so many people out there fighting for a cure, living with the disease and are surrounded by generous and loving people who are there to support us by land, by sea, by air and wherever else our challenges take us.