After discovering there wasn’t a Parkinson’s disease (PD) fundraiser in their local town of Turlock, California, eight longtime friends — Sherri and Rob Todd, Tammy and Kyle Anderson, Eric and Monica Piedra and Lisa and Jason Sanders — decided to start a walk in 2012 to raise funds and awareness for a local PD organization in honor of Sherri, who at 35 years old, was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease.
Deciding they wanted to do something different, they looked at other fundraising opportunities and a larger Parkinson’s foundation to fundraise for. Being children of the 70s and 80s, they all grew up watching Back to the Future and admired Michael J. Fox as an actor and PD advocate, so The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) immediately came to mind. “Funding Parkinson’s research is of the utmost importance,” says Rob. “Finding a cure, even if it’s not in our lifetime, is what we’re hoping for when we’re raising funds. Team Fox, they do that for us. They’re not just happy we’re fundraising for them; they do everything they can to help us succeed.”
When large-scale gatherings were cancelled due to the pandemic in 2020, they came up with a creative way to bring music into the community while raising funds for PD. They collaborated with a local musician and hosted a five-hour livestream Music for a Cure concert in Kyle’s driveway, raising just over $4,500 for MJFF.
The following year everything doubled — the space they needed to host the event, the number of musicians and the money they raised for research. Once the second musician was added to their event, there was a realization that their event wasn’t a concert anymore — it was a festival. It was then that Parkinstock, a play on “Parkinson’s” and “Woodstock,” was born. “Not only are the musicians donating their time by performing for free, but most of them stay for the entire event to show their support,” says Eric. “The willingness of our community to offer help and support — that’s the beauty of Parkinstock.”
The entire group plays a specific role in the event — Rob is the voice of Parkinstock and Sherri is the face; Eric and Monica are the talent acquisition and graphics coordinators; Kyle and Tammy are the event and creative coordinators; and Jason and Lisa are the cornhole tournament and raffle prize directors. Everyone comes together to gather sponsors and raffle prizes and to ensure the event as a whole runs smoothly.
After word got out that the festival was returning, artists were calling to see if they could perform and be involved. In 2022, Parkinstock moved to a local brewery, Blaker Brewing Co., and featured six local musicians complete with a cornhole tournament, raffle prizes and their own special release lager: Shak’n Not Stir’d. “Taking it to Blaker Brewing was a really a turning point,” says Kyle. That year, they raised over $25,000 for the full day festival, again more than doubling their previous fundraising amount, the space they needed to host the event and the number of musicians.
This year, Parkinstock raised $50,000 and featured nine artists over two days, once again doubling fundraising and event logistics. The fast growth of the event reaches people across the country who come specifically to their small town of Turlock to be involved. “When you have Parkinson's or you're a caregiver of someone with PD, it can feel like you're an island unto yourself. But when you get involved, you find that there are people that feel the same way,” says Rob. “We're all here to talk and hug and laugh and cry, because that's the way you get through the hard moments, right? The connections that we're making and the difference that we're making in people's lives by putting on Parkinstock allows us to be part of something bigger.”
Bands are already lining up to play Parkinstock 2024 — returning and new. Kyle reflects on what Team Parkinstock has accomplished as they head into their fifth year partnering with Team Fox. “I must admit, it really makes me smile and feel proud that what we are doing is making a difference, both for my friend Sherri and the millions of others living with PD. It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun too, and none of it would be as fun without Team Fox making it easy for us.”