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Recognizing a Decade of Swings and Strides for Team Fox: A Farewell to Longstanding Golf Tournament

First honoree of Breaking Parkinson's

Eric Gayheart at the first Breaking Parkinson's tournament honoring his father, Frank.

Please note: This event is not The Michael J. Fox Foundation's Breaking PARkinson's golf outing, which will be returning next year.

“Breaking Parkinson’s has always been about trying to engage our community while having fun and honoring the legacies of those who live or had lived with Parkinson’s disease (PD),” says Eric Gayheart.  

This year marked 10 years since Eric began fundraising to support The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) and 10 years since his dad was the first honoree at the first annual Breaking Parkinson’s Golf Tournament in 2014.  

After Eric’s dad, who was living with Parkinson’s, passed away in 2009, he started thinking about ways to honor him and give back to PD research. A big golf fan, Eric thought of other golf outings he’d been to and how he could create one for Team Fox. Five years later, 75 golfers came together in Springboro, Ohio for the inaugural golf tournament, raising $4,250 for PD research. 

During the first year, Eric was introduced to Malia Taylor through a mutual friend, and together, they have made Breaking Parkinson’s what it is today. Malia’s grandfather had PD and was the honoree at the second annual tournament. After that, having an honoree each year became essential to the event. Attendees would send in recommendations for honorees, either in recognition of or in memory of. The third year they had their first living recipient, Carlos Romero, who came with his whole family. To make sure the honoree and their family felt involved, the Breaking Parkinson’s team would host a dinner for them. 

“I think part of the reason for our success was always trying to keep the event personal and engaging with the family of whoever the honoree of that year was — whether they had already passed or were currently living with the disease,” says Eric. “We all have a common goal: we want to see a cure for Parkinson’s, and that makes us a community.” 

After each year, Eric and Malia would meet and discuss what went well and what could be improved on. A thought would spark an idea and they were always willing to try something new to see if it would work. A Memory Wall was implemented to recognize and memorialize those with PD. They supported local businesses and organizations from the start by offering raffle prizes to their participants, but every year the raffle would change a little. Three years ago, they started a bourbon raffle from local distilleries after tracking tickets to find out that those were the items people were bidding on the most. They also transitioned their raffle online, which allowed those we couldn’t attend to bid on items.  

“Behind every new idea, we were always thinking about how we could raise the most money for PD research because that’s what the event is about,” says Eric. "When we first created it, I wondered how we could get the biggest bang for our buck and have not only an event that is focused on awareness and research but also have name recognition. It was a no brainer to pick the Fox Foundation.” 

Over the years, Eric has been so surprised and touched by the amazing support from friends, colleagues, companies and his community — one of them being Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati staple. Every year, Skyline provided lunch at the tournament for free. They even started their own marketing efforts to raise awareness for the event. Last year, the honoree’s name was Chuck Taylor, so Skyline created four sets of Chuck Taylor shoes with the Breaking Parkinson’s logo on one side and Skyline Chili’s on the other. They presented the shoes to Chuck at dinner, and he was shocked and in awe.  

Afterward, Skyline Chili created a special Breaking Parkinson’s night where all the proceeds from sales would benefit Team Fox. “These little surprises and all the support that you don’t think is going to happen — that's been the key,” says Eric. “Every year is a new year, and we couldn’t just rely on the success of last year; we had to evolve and improve. That’s been such a big part of why we were able to host our event for as long as we did.”  

This year, to commemorate Breaking Parkinson’s 10th anniversary, Eric decided to set an ambitious goal of raising $25,000 to bring their fundraising total to $150,000. The team crushed its goal, raising twice that amount. In the past decade, Breaking Parkinson’s has raised over $175,000 for PD research and has doubled its participation from the start. 

“It’s so hard to imagine not doing this event next year, because it’s been such a big part of my life and my family’s life,” says Eric. “I watched my kids grow up and transition through the event. From being too young to attend, to helping pick out and distribute the raffle baskets, to this year where they actually played in the tournament.”  

Although the golf tournament won't return next year, Eric and the team have already started thinking of new fundraisers, including continuing the bourbon raffle online. 

“I’ve always looked at hosting this event as a blessing because I’ve gotten to meet and connect with so many wonderful people who are fighting against the same cause,” says Eric. “It’s been a pleasure to host the event — certainly a lot of work, but it’s been extremely rewarding to be a part of the community and connect with something bigger.” 

  • Malia and the girls at the 2023 event
  • Logo for Breaking Parkinson's event
  • 3 participants on the golf cart at breaking parkinson's in 2021
  • 4 participants on the green at breaking parkinson's 2022
  • Skyline presenting a check at Breaking Parkinson's
  • Eric Gayheart and Gaby Keim of Team Fox pose
  • Eric posing with Cathy and Greg Rhodes on the green
  • Memory wall for the 2021 honoree, Cathy Mathis
  • Kathi participating at Breaking Parkinson's
  • Bourbon raffle at the 2021 Breaking Parkinson's event
  • Brandon, a participant of Breaking Parkinson's
  • Pat and Chuck on the green, participants of Breaking Parkinson's
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