Jody Culmone joined Team Fox in 2009 after finally opening up about the Parkinson’s diagnosis she received six years prior. Since then, she has engaged her community with Team Fox brunches and now, a Pancakes for Parkinson’s Dinner. In addition, her granddaughters are raising funds with a Candy for a Cure campaign, and Jody hosts a raffle each August at her son’s annual hockey tournament.
She threw her fourth annual Team Fox event on Tuesday April 24, 2012—raising more than $8,000 and breaking all kinds of records in her hometown. We caught up with Jody to get her thoughts on planning this year’s event. She stresses the importance of forming a committee and raising funds as a way to combat her diagnosis.
Team Fox: This was your fourth annual Pancakes for Parkinson’s event. How did it compare to events in prior years? Did you do anything differently this year?
Jody Culmone: In November 2009, after living with Parkinson’s for 6 years, I decided to go public. I joined Team Fox and scheduled several speaking engagements at rotary clubs in the area (I am a Rotarian). I called my presentation “My Private War: What do I have in common with Michael J. Fox, Muhammed Ali, etc? We all have PD.” The audience was surprised at this news, but very interested to learn about Parkinson’s. I also spoke to my fellow directors at the Milford Bank. I received several donations and formed my first fundraising committee. In 2010, I organized “Brunch and More for a Parkinson’s Cure” at a local country club. It was an elegant affair with a silent auction and live entertainment—two very talented people, a vocalist and a pianist, donated their time. Later that year my 10-year-old granddaughter Jacqueline and I ran a raffle at my son's office hockey tournament through the Connecticut Hockey League. Jacque also sold wrist bands at her school during lunchtime and made a poster about Parkinson’s that said “Help find a cure for my grandma.”
In 2011, I organized the 2nd Annual Brunch and More for a Parkinson’s Cure and ran the same raffle with Jacque at the CT Hockey League tournament. This year, I decided to do something different and more family-oriented. One of my committee members, Linda, told me about Chips Restaurant, who offered their restaurant space and pancake dinner at no cost. We started planning early, in November 2011, which helped immensely.
TF: Did you implement any particular fundraising strategies to raise money?
JC: Since tickets to our 2012 event only cost $10, I decided to sell space in an Ad Book—sponsors could donate $1,000, $500 or $250 to earn a spot. Interest was so great I decided to print the ad book in color, which was more expensive but worth it.
The event on April 24th was wonderful. We broke all records for attendance at the restaurant with 225 guests enjoying pancakes for Parkinson’s. What was wonderful was that there were so many families with their children who all received Team Fox stickers and wrist bands. Everyone who donated received a thank you note or an email thank you and all the sponsors received a plaque.
In the last 2 ½ years I have raised a total of $34,330 for Team Fox. My granddaughters, Jacqueline, Amanda, Cassondra and Sarah, still do their Candy for a Cure fundraiser and I am planning another raffle in August at the CT Hockey League tournament. I am also already working on another event for 2013.
TF: How did you get the word out about your event?
JC: My committee really came through for me here. I was fortunate enough to have two members who previously worked for a local newspaper, and Cindy put together some very professional brochures for me. I joined the local Chamber of Commerce and they included 1,000 brochures in their March mailing. I also put up notices in supermarkets and bank branches. Linda put together a great press release and sent it to all the local papers, put it on Facebook and even got it on the radio. Chips Restaurant also promoted the event for me.
TF: Is there anything you would do differently?
JC: What would I do differently? It is hard to say. I started with an overall, lifetime goal of $25,000 and raised it last year to $50,000. I plan to keep fundraising until we find a cure, and I will just keep raising my goal until that time. Joining Team Fox has been great therapy for me in dealing with Parkinson’s. I am so busy and get so involved that I have no time to spend thinking or worrying about myself.
TF: Anything else you’d like to share?
JC: I want to share my deep gratitude to my committee (Linda Bouvier, Cindy Wolfe Boynton, Eileen Cavanaugh, Tina DeNapoles, Wendy Gibbons, Peggy Kelly, Marie Lillis, Nancy Macklin, Carol McInnis and Tracy O Brien), to my family who has been truly amazing, and to Bob Macklin of the Milford Bank who was my first sponsor and who continues to encourage and support my efforts—any success I have achieved belongs to them!
Also I must thank my husband and all the other caretakers of patients with Parkinson’s. It is a difficult job physically and emotionally. God Bless all of them.