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Living Every Day Well Inspires Gift to Spur Research

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MJFF community member Brenda Aiken, who lived with Parkinson's, enjoyed botanical illustration as hobby after her diagnosis. Here she is pictured alongside her botanical illustration titled, “Thistle: Onopordum acanthium.”

Brenda and Robert Aiken believed in living life to the fullest. The couple, who met on a blind date in Italy in the 1950s, traveled extensively, moved their family to 16 different locations and pursued hobbies they adored. Although Brenda was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 61, she’d spend the next 24 years of her life continuing to pursue hobbies she enjoyed.

“My mother wasn’t the type of woman who would let anything get her down,” says Ashton Aiken, the couple’s son. “Despite her prognosis, she woke up every day with a renewed sense of ‘I have another day.’”

When Brenda received botanical illustration lessons from Robert as a birthday gift, she discovered a new, rewarding artistic outlet.

“As my mother’s Parkinson’s was progressing, painting was something that actually stilled her hands,” says Jennifer Fulton, the Aikens’ daughter. “When she would stop, think and concentrate, all the shaking would stop. She was making art and was so very happy.”

Shortly after Brenda’s diagnosis, the Aikens, who lived in West Chester, Pennsylvania, discovered The Michael J. Fox Foundation. Impressed by the Foundation’s research methods, the couple began making annual contributions and established a gift to the Foundation in their estate plan, also known as a bequest.

“My parents believed in the foundation and that their gift could make a lasting difference,” Jennifer says. “They wanted the research to continue and for someone to find something to stop the disease from progressing.”

After Brenda’s brother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and the Aikens’ daughter and two granddaughters were identified as carriers of the LRRK2 gene mutation, which can cause Parkinson’s, making a lasting impact to the Foundation became even more important to the Aikens.

“My parents didn’t want someone else watching their loved ones go through Parkinson’s,” Ashton says. “Every little bit helps to further the research and bring us closer to a cure.”

Your generous estate gift can help The Michael J. Fox Foundation find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Learn more by contacting The Michael J. Fox Foundation at 212-509-1524 or

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