Diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD) in 2006, Gene Jacobus didn’t want to be defined by the disease, says his wife Colleen. But she knew a time would come when they’d be ready to get more involved.
They soon came across The Michael J. Fox Foundation, and as they learned more, they liked what they saw. Colleen says, “MJFF has a smart formula and a solid business plan. With no endowment, it’s clear their only stake in the game is to cure the disease.” In 2007, the couple decided to step up financially with a contribution, which they have continued since.
Last year the Jacobuses attended the annual gala, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Cure Parkinson’s, and participated in the New York Research Roundtable. There they were introduced to fellow Wisconsin native George Prescott, a long-time member of the MJFF Board of Directors who has lived with Parkinson’s for nearly 15 years. Gene says, “We were so impressed by George and everything he’s done for the Foundation. Yet he’s so humble and friendly. His positive attitude keeps everyone going.” That’s when Colleen started to wonder how she could bring MJFF to Milwaukee, their hometown.
“I wanted to open up our network to the Foundation, and help connect everyone here who was touched by Parkinson’s,” she says. To share the latest in PD research with their community, the Jacobuses and Prescotts joined forces to co-host a Research Salon at their country club, held on June 14. And to tap into a younger generation, Colleen decided to turn Milwaukee’s Summerfest Rock n’ Sole Run on June 15 into her very own Team Fox event.
Thanks to Colleen’s background in fundraising and special events, everything went off without a hitch. During the Research Salon, Parkinson’s patients and families appreciated the opportunity to hear about promising research from Brian Fiske, PhD, vice president of research programs at MJFF. “Living with Parkinson’s is like a puzzle you’re trying to fit together,” says Gene. “So the more you know, the better.” Along with the information he gained at the Salon, Gene learned about the need for clinical trial volunteers. “People have helped me in the past,” he says. “If there’s anything I can do to improve the future for other patients like participating in a trial, I’ll do it.”
Following the Salon, the Jacobuses hosted a spaghetti dinner at their home for the members of “Team Fox Brew City,” who were taking part in the 5K, quarter marathon or half marathon the next day. With more than 70 runners on the team, they raised over $35,000 — a very impressive sum for a first-time event. Colleen says, “The run was a fun way to bring everyone together. And it helped create more buzz around the Salon to get the right people in the room. Initially, you may think you don’t know many people with PD. Surprisingly — and unfortunately — it affects more than you realize.”
She continues, “At the Salon and the race, everyone had so much enthusiasm. For patients, it’s helpful to see others like you. We’ll definitely do this again next year. We want to keep up the momentum.”