For all of us at The Michael J. Fox Foundation, we're constantly inspired by the dedication and passion of the Parkinson's community. And it’s no surprise when the inspiration sparks us to push ourselves even further for the cause. That's especially true for our very own Senior Associate Director of Team Fox, Stephanie Paddock. For five years, Stephanie has worked with Team Fox members to turn their passions into fundraising events for Parkinson's research. Embracing the Team Fox spirit, she decided to turn her fifth year work anniversary into a unique fundraising opportunity. Taking on five athletics events this year — from a 50-mile endurance race to a half Ironman triathlon — she's swimming, biking, running and hiking her way for a cure. She does this all in honor of her dad, who has been living with PD since 2001. We sat down with Steph to learn more about her 5 for 5 Team Fox fundraiser and some of the things she is looking forward to most.
Completing five athletic events in one year is pretty ambitious. What made you think of 5 for 5?
I'm not really sure! I knew I wanted to sign up for the Timberman 70.3 Half Ironman in August and the New England Parkinson's Ride in September (I promised Team Fox member Edna Woods that I would ride this year), but then the other events just kind of fell into place. I enjoy endurance events and participating as a Team Fox athlete gives them purpose: racing for a cause that's so much bigger than just me. So I figured, “Why not challenge myself to complete five different events for a cause so close to me both professionally and personally?”
You’re literally running, swimming, biking and hiking hundreds of miles for Parkinson’s research. What keeps you going during the more difficult parts?
Sometimes I have to channel the mantra of Finding Nemo’s Dory — “just keep swimming” — but then I remind myself that I’m able to run, swim, bike and hike when many people living with Parkinson’s can't. I initially joined Team Fox for my dad, who’s lived with Parkinson’s for 14 years. Now I race not only for him, but also for those I've met over the years —Team Fox members, Parkinson's patients who are pushing their limits, and countless people making a difference in their communities.
Which event do you think will be the most challenging for you?
Most definitely the Timberman 70.3 Half Ironman. I've been doing some shorter practice triathlons to train but this will be my longest one to date. Not to mention it's in the mountains of New Hampshire.
You're also joining another MJFF staffer Sam Fox to climb Mount Whitney later this month for Tour de Fox. That’s no small feat. What are you most looking forward to about this climb?
I'm really excited to join Sam in California and be part of Tour de Fox. Living in New York City, I don't get much climbing or hiking in, but I absolutely love the outdoors and this climb will take me out of my comfort zone. I think I'm most excited to be sharing this experience with other Team Fox members, including Dave Iverson, who has Parkinson’s and runs marathons and climbs mountains. He is a huge inspiration to me.
5 for 5 isn't your first Team Fox fundraiser. What has been your most memorable Team Fox event you've done?
The 2011 NYC Marathon was my first (and so far only) marathon and my entire family and many friends came out to cheer me on and follow me all over the map. My dad wasn't able to get around too easily, so he stayed put at mile 23 to wait for me… and wait… and wait. He braved the cold all day waiting for me to pass by and it was one of the best hugs I've ever received.
What does your dad think of 5 for 5?
My dad's health has unfortunately declined over the past two years and it's hard to know how much he understands of my recent endeavors. But when we look at photos from past events and I remind him of the crazy feats I have coming up, he lights up and I know he's so proud. That keeps me going.