The idea for a family foundation came to Steve Hodges of Knoxville, Tennessee one day in March 2010. Sitting in church and reflecting on the year since his diagnosis with young-onset Parkinson's disease (PD), he envisioned a foundation focused on research. That was the genesis of the KiMe Fund, named for Steve's daughters Kimberly and Megan, who have helped their father take the fund from a mere twinkle in his eye to the full-fledged nonprofit it is today. "The name KiMe was symbolic of our goal of trying to find a cure before the next generation faces this disease," he says.
Since its founding, the KiMe Fund has hosted major fundraisers in Knoxville, Houston and Detroit. The largest, "Shakin' Not Stirred," is an annual James Bond-themed event that coincides with Parkinson's Awareness Month in April. They also confer an annual Impact Award upon an individual or company who has donated time, significant funds or services to drive Parkinson's research. Kim and Megan are integral to the events' conception and planning. "I enjoy being able to go through the process with my dad. It's important that we get to help find a cure for so many patients," says Megan.
Increasing awareness of PD and the need for a cure is a key part of KiMe's work, but the fund's main objective is to direct research dollars toward critical scientific efforts. Over the last two years, KiMe has awarded research grants totaling more than $142,000 to The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF), the Van Andel Institute and Henry Ford Hospital. The gift to MJFF focuses on identification of a biomarker to accelerate drug development and help doctors better diagnose the disease.
Biomarkers: A Crucial Next Step
Biomarkers are measurable factors that indicate the presence or progression of a disease and could form the basis of a test for Parkinson's. A biomarker can be as elusive as an antibody, or as simple as a blood pressure reading, but none are yet verified for PD.
KiMe is currently funding a study investigating blood as a potential Parkinson's biomarker. "Biomarkers provide an opportunity to develop meaningful analytics to help find a cure sooner rather than later," says Steve. "They help researchers have a better understanding of where they need to focus their efforts."
Steve's vision is to fund research that will help find cures for a whole range of neurological disorders. "We are going to help cure PD and go on down the line until we get them all done!"
Margaret W. Crane is a freelance medical writer based in New York City.