15th Annual Pancakes for Parkinson’s hopes to have topped $70K fundraising goal

Organizers say donations likely exceeded $70,000, which will be given to the Michael J. Fox Foundation

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Volunteers at Pancakes for Parkinson's pose for a picture on the South Lawn Saturday while making pancakes. 

Chandler Collins | Cavalier Daily

Organizers of the 15th annual Pancakes for Parkinson’s event are optimistic that this year’s pancake breakfast brought their fundraising efforts to new heights. The event was held on the South Lawn this past Saturday.

The event seeks to unify community members and students in an effort to raise money for finding a cure for Parkinson’s disease — a debilitating neurodegenerative disorder — by flipping pancakes in exchange for donations, along with the sale of T-shirts. 

This year, the organization hoped to raise $70,000 with the help of corporate sponsorships, private donations and grants that fourth-year College students Caroline Keller and Gabby Beard, the event’s co-chairs, applied for. One such grant is the Parents Fund Grant, an award intended to enhance student experiences through donations from the parents of University students and alumni. 

“Going into the event this year, we estimated that we were at about $65,000, which is tied for the most money we have ever donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation,” Beard said. “Typically, we make about $20,000 on the day of the event, therefore we feel fairly confident that we exceeded our goal of $70,000 this year.”

Over the course of its 15-year lifetime, the organization has been able to raise almost half a million dollars to further Parkinson’s research. In the past two years, Pancakes for Parkinson’s namesake event has raised close to $65,000 per year.

In an email to The Cavalier Daily, Beard said the increased amount of donations this year was the product of an effort to target local Charlottesville businesses for larger donations beginning this past August. In recent years, Beard said the largest sponsorships have come from Trader Joe's and U.Va. Dining. 

For this year, she said the largest donations also came from personal connections to Pancakes for Parkinson's — including Funston Media Group and GBD Architects, a firm based out of Portland, Ore.

While the total proceeds of this year’s Pancakes for Parkinson’s are still being calculated, information about the finalized numbers will be updated through the group’s Facebook page

Students involved in the fundraiser also reached out to 30 family members and friends each in a letter-writing campaign that asked for donations. 

“With everyone's donations, we hope that we can help find a cure to eradicate this horrible disease,” Beard added.

The money garnered by participating volunteers, who numbered over 350 this year, is donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation — a nonprofit organization founded by actor Michael J. Fox himself with the goal of finding a cure to the debilitating disease.

The University’s Pancakes for Parkinson’s event was adopted as a national fundraiser by Team Fox in 2007 — a grassroots community outreach program connected to the Foundation. Since then many other colleges and communities across the U.S. have begun to participate in similar pancake breakfast events as well. 

Sami Strohm, a third-year College student who served as a Pancakes for Parkinson’s co-chair for promotions marketing, said in a text message to The Cavalier Daily that the organization also built-up its social media presence this year to ensure the success of the event.

“We made the presence of the event known as widely as possible through social media, flyering, tabling, and more,” Strohm said. “In my position specifically, I managed our Facebook page to keep U.Va. students, U.Va. alumni, family, friends and community members informed about the various aspects of the event to get the excitement up.”

Pancakes for Parkinson’s T-shirts sporting the logo “All You Need is Love and Pancakes” sold out this year in the days leading up to the event.

In an interview  Saturday, third-year College student Katie Purcell said she attended the event to support her friend’s a capella group who performed there.

“It was well put together, and there were a lot of volunteers,” she said. “A first-year student made my pancakes, so it was nice to see that people of all ages were participating.”

Many students and community members partake in the event for reasons close to their hearts, having known people affected with the disease. Strohm said she lost a grandmother to Parkinson’s at the end of her first year at the University after being accepted to an executive position within the Pancakes for Parkinson's organization.

“While I had originally joined due to my dedication to raising awareness about the disease, it became even more important than ever once I received that call from my mom,” Strohm said. “This year’s event was the day before what would’ve been my grandmother’s 68th birthday, so the success of the event was incredible to see.” 

Brittany Hsiao, a third-year College student on the logistics committee for Pancakes for Parkinson’s, also she has a personal connection to the event, as her grandfather has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s. 

“Coming to the Lawn at 4:30 a.m. to set up for the event was such a uniquely rewarding experience, seeing so many current students, faculty members and returning alumni have a great time all throughout the day,” she said. 

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