When Mike Ziomek started The Shovel Crew Foundation to Bury Parkinson’s Disease in September, he knew one thing for sure: the narrative around the disease needed to change. Mike was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2016, at the age of 34. His symptoms started with just a slight finger twitch.
“I was in denial for seven years because it was something I could live with,” he said. “I didn’t take any real medication, and it didn’t really interfere with my daily life.”
In April 2023, things took a turn for the worse.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” Mike said. “It felt like it went from 0 to 100 overnight, and I started on meds and had to hit it head-on.”
“Head-on” meant raising awareness of Parkinson’s and what those afflicted with it endure. Mike and his best friend, Erik, wanted to show people that the disease doesn’t just affect older folks… that it’s more than just “a shaking disease.”
“Most people don’t get the full scope of what the journey entails,” he said.
The duo initially came up with the name as a tongue-in-cheek joke. The Shovel Crew Foundation to Bury Parkinson’s Disease was formed and immediately began contributing money to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research.
“Our first initiative for The Shovel Crew is our Financial Assistance Program,” Mike said. “We provide a one-time payment for those with Parkinson’s who live in the Phoenix area.”
The Shovel Crew hosts various events to raise funds and awareness with the help of volunteers.
They participate in a ‘plant a tree’ initiative once a month where they accept a $20 donation and coordinate with the City of Scottsdale to plant a tree in a city park in the donor’s honor. They’ve also held fundraising dinners and are planning a Pints for Parkinson’s and wine-tasting events in the future.
“We started with a small group of five of us – the original Shovel Crew – that helped get the word out,” Mike said. “Now that we have been featured on the news, I have people emailing me every day wanting to help and join our fight against this disease.”
On June 4, the group will host its inaugural golf tournament, The Shovel Crew Classic.
The goal of the Crew is to assist in finding a cure, however long it takes.
“In the meantime, we will keep having as many fun events as possible to get the word out there,” Mike said. “With the audience we are receiving, we will keep teaching about this disease and providing all the support we can for those suffering from it.”
What is Parkinson’s Disease?
• Parkinson’s Disease is caused when brain cells that make dopamine stop working or die. This often causes stiffness, tremors, and walking and balance issues.
• Named after James Parkinson, an English physician who published the first description of it in 1817.
• Nearly one million people in the U.S. and six million worldwide live with the disease.
• 90,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year.
• Tremors, small handwriting and loss of smell are early signs of the disease.
• Since its inception in 2000, the Michael J. Fox Foundation has raised over $1.5 billion for Parkinson’s research.