Mark Sigel, left, with friends.
When Mark Sigel, age 12, of Pepper Pike, Ohio, set out to undertake his Bar Mitzvah project, he immediately thought of his grandfather, whom he was named after. Even though his mom’s father had died before he was born, Mark had often heard wonderful stories about how great of a man he was.
Mark also knew that his grandfather battled early onset Parkinson’s disease (PD) during his life. So, when presented with the opportunity to give back to those around him, he immediately thought of how he could serve people living with Parkinson’s.
A Bar Mitzvah is, of course, a coming of age ritual in the Jewish tradition, and often, candidates must perform tzedakah, or social action projects, as part of the preparation for this ceremony. This makes sense, as Mark explains, since one meaning of the word “mitzvah” is “good deed.” “It means a lot to me that I can do good deeds for my community,” he says, “and at the same time, I can honor my grandfather.”
When Mark, who plans to “most likely go into the medical field,” began his homework on PD, he quickly became astonished at how incredibly difficult it is to bring a new drug to market, particularly for central nervous system disorders like Parkinson’s. He was also surprised to learn that a big reason drug development fails is difficulty recruiting for clinical trials. Then, Mark found out about the clinical trial matching tool Fox Trial Finder at fellow Ohioan Karen Jaffe’s event Shaking with Laughter, and he knew he needed to take action.
Mark assembled a list of friends and family, and emailed the group asking them to create a profile at www.foxtrialfinder.org, and to consider participating in clinical research. The response was very encouraging: Already, more than 10 have signed up.
His support of PD research doesn’t stop there: In addition to working the coat check room at Shaking with Laughter, Mark, who’s an avid skier, hockey player and a budding wrestler, also helped to register people for the University Hospitals’ Parkinson’s Boot Camp, an event designed to highlight the importance of exercise for people with PD.
“I think it’s great to be able to help people in any way,” he explains. “But I’ve often thought about what we could do for people with Parkinson’s disease in particular. It’s special for my whole family that we’re able to be a part of something that is so important to this community.”
You can join the growing cohort already being assembled by “recruiters” like Mark Sigel, and help to drive forward clinical research today. Check out the Parkinson’s Wellness Resource Center of Cleveland to learn more about his story, and to create a profile at Fox Trial Finder.