Eat Pancakes, Fight Parkinson’s

Krista Connor

Annual event, set for Sept. 20 at Sanford, aims to raise $100,000 – and awareness

Last year, 5,000 pancakes were made by volunteer “griddle teams” and served to 750 guests at Pancakes for Parkinson’s, an annual event that raises funds and, more important, awareness about Parkinson’s disease.

This year, co-founder Cindy Wilkinson has a goal of $100,000 for the event, set for Saturday, Sept. 20, at Sanford School in Hockessin. From 8 a.m. to noon, a dozen griddle teams will serve pancakes. Guests can donate to the teams ahead of time or give a $10 entrance fee.

The fundraiser, now in its sixth year, has raised $400,000 for research. It is organized by Team Fox Delaware, a branch of the national nonprofit Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. There are about 500 branches throughout the country, started by individuals determined to raise awareness and push for more research on the disease.
Twelve years ago, Wilkinson, a Delaware native, learned that her father, Verino Pettinaro, had Parkinson’s. When Wilkinson, her mother, sisters Vicky and Tracy and brother Greg researched the disease, they had to do in-depth digging just to find basic information.
“That’s why we were like, ‘We need to raise awareness,’” says Wilkinson.

So she, along with Debi Brooks, formed Team Fox Delaware. Brooks, also from Delaware, is co-founder and executive vice chairman of the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

Team Fox Delaware members wanted a way to bring families together but they didn’t want to host a traditional gala or walk fundraiser. Then the idea came to them: pancakes.

“I thought a pancake breakfast would be fun,” says Wilkinson. “But I didn’t think it would be this big.”

To Wilkinson, the best part of the fundraiser is getting people together who have or had Parkinson’s and giving them a platform to discuss it and support one another, gaining comfort and awareness. The event “means that we can get people to stop whispering, ‘Oh, he has Parkinson’s,’” she says about her father. “When someone tells us that someone has Parkinson’s, we’re able to lead them to the right doctors, the right treatment. We have helped people move quicker at the beginning of the disease for treatment.”

Pettinaro, 74, has 12 grandchildren, and they all assist with the events. “That’s what brings it all again to family, being supportive, and working to the same goals. It brings families close, doing something for the same end result,” says Wilkinson.

You can get involved by creating or joining a griddle team or by donating to support a griddle team.

On Saturday, Oct. 18, Partners in Parkinson’s, a day-long education event, will take place in Philadelphia. This symposium helps PD patients and caregivers navigate resources and engage for better outcomes as they live with the disease.

Visit www.partnersinparkinsons.org.

Call Wilkinson at 218-4411 or email her at cpw35@hotmail.com for more information.

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