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Christopher Chadbourne and Felicia O'Keefe: "The Right Decision at the Right Time"

Christopher Chadbourne and Felicia O'Keefe: "The Right Decision at the Right Time"

In the MJFF Winter 2011 newsletter, Chris Chadbourne, a PD patient, MJFF supporter, clinical trial participant and photographer, shares the inspiration behind the decision to make a once-in-a-lifetime gift to the Foundation.


“Had it not been for Parkinson’s disease,” said Christopher Chadbourne, “I would not have picked up the camera again. So in a bizarre way, I’m really grateful for my PD.”

Over two decades as founder and creative director, Chris had built Christopher Chadbourne & Associates into an internationally renowned firm specializing in exhibit design and museum planning; his wife, Felicia O’Keefe, had worked alongside him as director of marketing. But as the news of his 2008 diagnosis sank in, his priorities changed. “While I loved what I did, I wanted to do what I loved,” he explained — which meant returning to his first career as a photographer.

For the past three summers, Chris and occasionally Felicia have traveled around the country to state fairs, which Chris calls “America’s most democratic institution.” His photos from the fairs have been exhibited in galleries and museums around the country. Chris’ next project, “My Country ’Tis of Thee,” will continue to document his fascination with America’s many stories.

In seeking all the information he could find about Parkinson’s, Chris discovered The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF). He has come to rely on the Foundation, and its Web site in particular, for the updates he needs about PD. “While it’s not always good news, it’s always important,” he said.

Chris also admired the Foundation’s research funding strategy and its collaborative relationship with the private sector. “Scientists can make wonderful discoveries in potential PD treatments,” he said. “But MJFF recognizes you need the drug companies on board to get these treatments out of the lab and onto pharmacy shelves.”

Because of the success of their design firm, Chris and Felicia found themselves in a position to make a significant gift to a worthy cause. They decided their dollars would be most wisely spent by MJFF. Originally planning to contribute $25,000, they were inspired to double that to $50,000 last May. Chris explained: “We’re not wealthy people. This is a one-time gift, and I want it to affect the rest of our life. We wanted to give enough so that I know I’ve given enough.”

Their engagement with MJFF also brought to their attention the need for increased participation in clinical trials — especially among PD patients. Chris recently volunteered to take part in an exercise study at Boston University.

Not long after their gift, the Brin Wojcicki Challenge was announced — meaning Chris and Felicia’s gift would be doubled again, to $100,000. “When we heard that news,” said Chris, “we felt terrific. We clearly made the right decision at the right time.”

See more of Chris' photos at his Web site,

– Lauren Anderson

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