To honor her mother, Merrie, who has Parkinson’s, Meredith Boone Tutterow ran the 2011 Bank of America Chicago marathon for Team Fox. But her family’s involvement with Team Fox and The Michael J. Fox Foundation didn’t stop there. In fact, it has only increased. Along the way, they’ve inspired others to join Team Fox — and to leverage the Brin Wojcicki Challenge while it’s in effect.
Meredith confesses she’s not a natural born runner. “Some people run a marathon through sheer force of will,” she says. “I’m one of those people.”
At 40, Meredith knew if she ever ran a marathon, it was now or never. She challenged her mom’s sister, Susan McClellan, 60, who had run marathons before, to race with her. Susan recruited her friend, Patty Elkus, 50, to run with them, and the Merrie Miles was born.
“For 18 weeks, all I did was work, run and sleep,” says Meredith, who finished in just over five hours, Susan and Patty not far behind. “Completing the marathon — and seeing my whole family cheering me on along the way — was a peak life experience. My mom and dad saw me run. And so did my kids. People from all points of our lives supported our team, to honor my parents.”
The Merrie Miles raised over $40,000 — a figure that was ultimately quadrupled. Meredith’s dad, Dan Boone, matched every dollar the team raised, doubling their efforts to more than $80,000. Thanks to the Brin Wojcicki Challenge, that was doubled again, to over $160,000.
“We are huge fans of the Foundation and their approach,” Dan says. “They understand that patients want research funders to take risks and be willing to fail to reach the reward.”
Merrie Miles’ legacy keeps on going. “The marathon was an opportunity for us to talk to our kids about Parkinson’s in a way that we hadn’t before,” says Meredith. In January 2012, Meredith’s daughter Abby turned 10 and hosted a Pancakes for Parkinson’s birthday party. She raised over $2,000 for Team Fox, matched by her grandfather, which the Challenge doubled to $8,000. Her grandparents flew in from Atlanta to surprise her. Abby says, “My friends and I felt like we were making a difference. I also learned I wasn’t the only one whose grandparent has PD.”
In April, the Merrie Miles team, together with Merrie and Dan, attended Team Fox’s annual MVP Awards dinner for top fundraisers. “It was so inspiring for all of us,” says Dan. “Merrie got to spend time with Michael J. Fox, and we loved hearing about the progress the Foundation was making.”
At the dinner, the Boone family also learned about an upcoming Team Fox expedition to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain, in August. Eager to plan their next event, they started talking about a family Team Fox trek to Kilimanjaro. Two family friends, Alice and McKnight Brown, were inspired to join this year’s trip as the Merrie Mountaineers. They summited on August 29 and raised over $30,000 for Parkinson’s research, which was doubled by the Challenge.
Prior to her family’s involvement with Team Fox, Merrie had stayed relatively quiet about the disease she’d had since 2001. “She didn’t want to be seen through the lens of a disabled person in any way,” says Dan. But both Dan and Meredith agree Merrie has gained something even more important than an outpouring of support. It’s enabled her to be more public about her Parkinson’s, and has changed her perspective. “It helped us deal with the disease a little bit better,” says Dan. “She’s learned to embrace it — and that you can turn it into something truly positive.”