Rev It Up for Parkinson’s supports doctors and patients at UC

CINCINNATI — A major fundraising effort for Parkinson’s Disease brings its annual bike ride, walk and run to the Cincinnati riverfront Sunday morning.  

The Sunflower Rev it up for Parkinson’s event supports one of the most important centers for research and innovation in the country, on the campus of the University of Cincinnati.

What You Need To Know

  • Sunflower Rev it Up for Parkinson’s helps to raise money for research and treatment at UC’s Gardner Neuroscience Institute
  • The walk, run, bike event begins Sunday morning in the park along the riverfront near downtown
  • So far, the event has raised more than $2.5 million

​“I wanted to start it because my dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s,” said event co-founder Kathleen Kumme. “He was my buddy, partner in crime. We went bicycling together. We had lots of adventures together and I thought I’d like to do something better for people with Parkinson’s.”      

Kumme has been in the cycling business for years. The entire plan started coming together after a bike ride with an expert on Parkinson’s.

“The idea hatched on a bike ride with John Tu who’s a neurosurgeon, and I said I want to have a wine tasting for Parkinsons’ and I’m going to give the money to Michael J. Fox and he said, ‘No, we have a neuro-science institute right here in Cincinnati and I think we need to have a gala and a bike ride.’”

It was a big hit from the first year, and since then, they’ve raised about $2.5 million. Much of that money has come from teams made up of family and friends of Parkinson’s patients.

“The family teams are the lifeblood and the heart and soul of the event because they really care about the outcome and they care about finding a cure,” Kumme said.

Parkinson’s patients, Steve Hammoor and Mark Wilmers and their teams, have raised more than $500,000 dollars. 

“This Gardner Center is Fabulous,” Hammoor said. “It means so much to the Parkinson’s community.”

Hammoor and Wilmers are living proof of the strides that have been made over the decade since they were diagnosed.

“And at that time, I thought, this is a death sentence, and I thought I’m not going to sit back and let it beat me,” Wilmers said. 

Wilmers said he considers himself fortunate to be living here in Ohio, so close to the Gardner center.

“It’s a world-class facility, staffed with doctors who dedicated their whole lives to curing Parkinson’s and movement disorders,” Wilmers said.

Dr. Andrew Duker and Dr. Alberto Espay are two researchers in Cincinnati who are leading the way in designing individualized treatment plans. They continue to investigate the genetics of how one person’s Parkinson’s differs from another’s.

“We could then eventually get to understanding their specific brands of Parkinson’s, which is something we’ve never done before,” Espay said, “But it can be done and a lot of it comes from the village that has been established here in Cincinnati and particularly with the Sunflower Walk.”

Dr. Duker said that could lead to some big revelations.

“Using that information to help develop therapies to not just treat the symptoms of the disease but to also slow its progression and hopefully a cure,” he said.

The work being done at UC can be demanding and exhausting. Dr. Duker says the Sunflower Rev It Up is rejuvenating for him and his team.

“We see the support that the community has for patients here and our center here and Parkinson’s in general and that give us a huge motivation to keep doing what we’re doing from a clinical standpoint and the research standpoint to help better the lives of people with Parkinson’s,” Duker said.

“It’s a celebration of life. A celebration of Parkinson’s people coming together and making it better,” Hammoor said.

“These doctors aren’t giving up on me so I’m not going to give up on them, so we’re going to fund raise until we find a solution,” Wilmers said.

The center and their doctors have given them hope.

“Eventually we’ll figure it out,” Hammoor said. “It’ll happen.”

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