It is my great pleasure to announce that on July 21, 2017 Pamela Parker, Russell Ackner and Steven Palin will represent Parker’s Climb as they join the acclaimed 10 Mountains/10 Years team of climbers for The 2017 Ambassador Project to raise awareness and funding to benefit Parkinson’s Disease and Alzheimer’s Disease.
A group of 35 climbers from five countries will unite on a 4 day, 45 kilometer journey through the Andes Mountains and into Machu Picchu on the 106th anniversary of it’s discovery.
The Ambassador Project is organized by Enzo Simone, founder of “The 10 Mountains /10 Years Project.” He began raising awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s Disease & Parkinson’s Disease research on Mont Blanc in 2006 with a team of 9 international climbers called “The Regulars”. It has since grown to become one of the largest awareness projects of its kind benefitting these neurological disorders. To date, 10M10Y has gained nearly 500 team mates, and inspired a number of off-shoot awareness projects. It has also been the subject of a feature film documentary called “10 Mountains 10 Years” featuring Anne Hathaway (narration), Bruce Springsteen (soundtrack), and Leeza Gibbons (introduction). The 10 Mountains 10 Years film earned 28 film awards and also inspired the creation of 2 additional films.
In 2006 at the age of 51, my husband Geoffrey Parker was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s Disease. In reality we realized that he had symptoms of the disease dating back two to three years prior to the day that the formal diagnosis was delivered. I became keenly aware that Geoff was managing his disease differently than most and not only was it working for him, it was a story that needed to be told. Geoff was in the gym and played tennis religiously, he was an avid golfer, he continued to run and bicycle aggressively and ski the powder on some of his favorite mountains six to seven years into this disease while taking very little traditional PD meds. In 2010 when we announced the Parker’s Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro Expedition for Team Fox, our goal was to show those living with the disease that physical activity plays a key role in managing the symptoms of PD. His efforts to slow the progression through exercise and healthy living surely allowed him to climb mountains and most likely play a role in how he manages this disease now some 14 years in.
As we announced our year-long fundraiser leading up to Mt. Kilimanjaro, our Parker’s Climb team grew to six when we were joined by brother George, sister-in-law Larri , and their two amazing kids George Jr. and Madeleine. We climbed 4 mountains in preparation for Kilimanjaro and our fundraiser touched the lives of many caregivers, those living with PD and friends who cheered us on and helped raise funding for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. We had so many supporters in this effort and those were the faces and voices that we all took up that mountain.
Shortly after announcing the Parker’s Climb Mount Kilimanjaro climb, I learned about the efforts of Enzo Simone and his quest to climb 10 mountains over 10 years to end Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. During our year-long fundraiser we corresponded often and he was a great supporter having already climbed Mt. Kili. I was drawn to Enzo’s approach to fighting these two diseases and shared many of his views on how every person touched by these relentless diseases, including patients, families, caregivers, the medical community and researchers could benefit in raising awareness and the much needed funding for research and ultimately cures.
“The 10 Mountains 10 Years” project has grown and succeeded in spite of never having financial sponsors” said Enzo Simone. Parker’s Climb, like every 10 Mountains 10 Years climb has been fully funded by it’s participants. Simone said “Everyone who has joined us has come voluntarily, paying their own way, and cultivating their own grassroots awareness effort among their peers.”
The goal of the Parker’s Mt. Kilimanjaro Climb was to show the world and those living with the disease that they can benefit by staying active. On a larger scale, Enzo Simone has developed a platform that allows each teammate to champion the aspects of these diseases which they feel is most important to them. That could be research, caregiving, public policy or even diet & fitness which is becoming increasingly important to patients.
“The mountain is more than physical, it’s a metaphor for reaching goals in health, personal achievement, research, and in finding cures.” said Enzo Simone. Enzo goes on to say, “We’re not doctors, researchers, politicians, or other health officials. We’re patients and family of those affected, so our role is as advocates & activists, and this puts us on the front line of this battle to save ourselves and our family.” “Our goal with the 10 Mountains 10 Years Ambassador Project is to unite people from around the world to stand for themselves, represent themselves, climb mountains and conquer these diseases”.
In the year leading up to Mt. Kilimanjaro I found a voice to shout out our efforts in the war against PD. I read and researched every article from all over the world pertaining to medical research, public policy and the efforts of those just like us just trying to make a difference. I spun this into the lives of six family members training to climb a mountain to raise awareness for PD by writing more than 350 entries on our Parker’s Climb website while seeking donations for the Fox Foundation. As I look back, I feel that this was one of the greatest accomplishments of my lifetime.
Enzo became a warrior in the army of change in order to conquer these two diseases when his mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease and his father-in-law Parkinson’s Disease. Initially I wondered how one could take on two diseases as he did, but in the end I learned first hand.
In 2011, just weeks before our Kilimanjaro climb, my mother began having tests run to determine if she had Alzheimer’s disease. I delayed learning the outcome until after we completed the climb in 2011 because I simply felt I could not carry that up that mountain. Two days after returning home doctors told us that she was certainly deep in the stages of vascular dementia, and most likely Alzheimer’s Disease.
Before learning of her disease I had a strong need and an undeniable calling to help end Parkinson’s disease, but I suddenly lost my voice as a neurological warrior as I switched from a fighter, to a person who would watch two brain disorders move through those I cared about like an army.
The reality of family illness can quiet a strong voice and extinguish the flame for doing creative work as I have learned over these years. It was not until Enzo asked the Parker’s Climb team to join the Machu Picchu Army of Change that I could even fathom becoming involved in a project of this scope that could take me to the physical and mental limits that I felt in conquering Mt. Kilimanjaro.
Geoff continues to amaze me on a daily basis in managing his PD. There is no denying the reality of his diagnosis in that he is not able to make the climb into the lost city of Machu Picchu. In all the time that he has lived with this disease, he has never said “why me?” He continues to work, exercise, play tennis and golf while making the necessary adjustments as needed when his symptoms and side effects of the PD meds work to undermine his strong willed attitude.
I am a lucky woman to have the support of good friends and family as I sit on the sidelines watching this disease. My mother is now an angel in heaven and I consider myself one of the fortunate ones who was still recognized by her until the end.
I have the honor of trekking through the Andes and into the lost city surrounded by others who most likely have a story similar to mine and Enzo’s. I am blessed to have two of my good friends making this climb with me!! My life is richer for knowing Russell and Steven and this climb will be life altering for them I am sure. I pray that my voice against these two diseases will once again grow strong and I will perhaps be able to make a difference for those whose lives have been changed forever.
Please help support our cause by donating to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. We continue to believe that Team Fox is unstoppable in their quest to end this disease. A link will be available shortly on this website to make donations directly to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
This post is dedicated to Enzo Simone and every team member of the Machu Picchu Army of Change!! We have a mountain to climb, we have a story to tell and we have two diseases to help conquer.
Bring It on!