Sometimes life changes course quickly. Justin Vedder was only 37 when he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s, and his wife Ashley was eight months pregnant with their third child.
A former University of California, Berkeley quarterback, Justin was typically social and outgoing. But like many newly-diagnosed people with Parkinson’s, he began staying home and didn’t share the news with many people. After a year, Ashley knew that this needed to change. Hoping that Justin’s love of golf would help him to open up, she talked to his golf pro about a fundraiser and connected with Team Fox.
The 2015 “Vedder Golf Event” was a success, and also a turning point. “I put on the Team Fox website a goal of $10,000 and I remember thinking how great it would be to reach that,” said Ashley. “We ended up raising over $60,000! And the support and acceptance that poured in was just incredible.”
Through Team Fox, the Vedders have also met others in the Parkinson’s community. That raised their enthusiasm and commitment even more, and they began planning their next fundraiser.
This time, Ashley and Justin added an evening event, “The Foxy Gala,” which included a cocktail reception and dinner, silent and live auctions, and dancing. Actor Donny Most -- Ralph Malph of “Happy Days” fame -- whose wife lives with Parkinson’s, heard about the fundraiser and jumped in to help. Most joined the auctioneer on stage to help with bids for a signed “Happy Days” poster. The 2016 Foxy Gala doubled the previous year’s fundraiser, bringing in a whopping $140,000.
Hosting the Team Fox fundraisers has helped both Justin and Ashley feel more productive and proactive. Ashley’s positive attitude helps her focus on the present, while feeling optimistic for the future and the drug development advances and research that have already made a difference for Justin.
As for Justin, he plans to coach his kids’ sports teams for as long as he can. He credits his athletic training with teaching him mental focus and the importance of physical conditioning. He works out every day, is in a basketball league and enjoys boxing, biking and rowing.
As his kids grow older, he’s excited to share even more with them. And it’s paying off; his two-year-old carries golf clubs everywhere and dressed up as a golfer for Halloween. Maybe soon they’ll lead a Vedder family fundraiser to help tee up a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
Interested in hosting an event in your community and fundraising in support of Parkinson's research? Join Team Fox today.
Laura Amann is an award-winning freelance writer who contributes personal stories about living with Parkinson’s to the MJFF blog.