When Jake Silverman was in fifth grade, he began taking his shoes off in school because they confined his cramping feet. He also complained that writing was painful. Soon after, Jake and his family embarked on a string of inconclusive doctors' appointments. After a visit to a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, Jake was finally diagnosed with early-onset childhood dystonia at age 10.
Dystonia is characterized by painful, prolonged muscle contractions that often result in abnormal movements and postures. It is closely related to, and can sometimes be a symptom of, Parkinson's disease (PD). Dystonia is the third most common movement disorder and affects an estimated 500,000 people in North America. Like PD, there is currently no treatment to slow or stop the disease.
For Jake, deep brain stimulation surgery was the best solution. Prior to the procedure, he missed some of sixth grade and was using a wheelchair. His symptoms since have greatly improved. Jake no longer needs a wheelchair and is currently entering his junior year at American University.
Their experience inspired Jake and his parents, Nancy and Jeffrey, to create Jake's Ride, a family-friendly walk and bike ride to support research. Originally run in partnership with the Bachmann-Strauss Dystonia and Parkinson Foundation (BSDPF), today it is a leading Team Fox fundraiser. (In 2014, BSDPF formed a research alliance with MJFF.) Jake's Ride is now in its ninth year and draws more than 1,000 people to Short Hills, New Jersey annually. Since inception, Jake's Ride (in conjunction with a spin-off classic car event in 2015) has raised more than $2.5 million for PD and dystonia research efforts. Jake also serves as a Team Fox junior spokesperson.
"We are so grateful for all of the community support Jake's Ride has received," said Nancy, "For us personally as a family and on behalf of the thousands of dystonia patients who will benefit from the invaluable research efforts the event has generated."