While many returning students and alumni spent Saturday mornings preparing game day tailgates and meetings, others woke up early to flip pancakes to benefit charity. The student volunteers took advantage of the hustle and bustle of the alumni reunion and home football game against Duke – a big rival close to the University – to host the annual Pancakes for Parkinson event, raise funds and raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease.
The 19th annual Pancakes for Parkinson event took place from 9 am to 2 pm Saturday and brought together between 1,000 and 1,500 participants and 300 volunteers at the South Lawn in solidarity to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease. The IOC Pancakes for Parkinson’s was started in 2003 by Mary McNaught, a 2006 college alumnus who wrote her college candidacy essay on an idea she wanted to bring to Grounds – making pancakes on the lawn to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research. . McNaught’s vision as an ambitious academic candidate has now evolved into the largest CIO currently operating at the University.
Many chairs rely on the organization of the previous year’s event to prepare each year. However, since the pandemic caused the in-person event to be canceled last year, fourth-year college student Molly Giles and fourth-year education student Anna Ryan had their work cut out for them then. that the two Co-Chairs began to lead the charge. on planning in early spring. From the first weeks of school, the management team met once every two to three weeks and held committee meetings where tasks could be delegated more specifically. Apart from these formal meetings, the committees met individually, working to facilitate sponsorships, coordinate logistics, and work to contact students and recruit volunteers to make the event a success.
“We had an overall schedule that we set last spring for what needed to be done before the event and each committee had their own schedule,” said Giles. “I learned a lot about managing various groups while being a co-chair and I certainly learned a lot about leadership styles and approaches. “
The whole atmosphere of the event was festive and joyful, as volunteers and participants honored a year of diligent preparation with great food and great company. Although the goal of the event was to raise additional funds for Parkinson’s disease research, the vast majority of funds come from donations made during the year and from all event activities, including including admission, having a coffee and ordering a pancake. – were free, except for the purchase of a t-shirt.
“Our highest year was 2018 with a total of $ 100,000, and we’re hoping to reach $ 50,000 this year,” said Kelly Wulf, fourth-year student at Batten and chair of fundraising. “In 2020, we obviously couldn’t organize the event, but we still managed to raise $ 20,000. We’ve been able to raise hundreds of thousands of people to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation over the past four years, which is pretty crazy, actually.
The final amount collected will be released in the coming weeks when the teams have finished counting all donations.
The South Lawn courtyard was adorned with multi-colored balloons and a large tent housing the pancake plate stations surrounding a stage and table arrangements for guests. Short teams of a cappella performers – including First Year Players, No Tones, Virginia Belles, Hullabahoos, Virginia Gentlemen and the Silhouettes – as well as the local band Bull Moose Party filtered on and off the stage at 20 minute intervals. Some bands wore professional-looking matching black dresses and suits and sang traditional a cappella songs like “Show People” and others were decked out in costumes, wigs and sunglasses, singing Taylor’s “Our Song” Swift.
“I just think it’s cool to see students helping out which is obviously a very personal cause for me,” said a faculty member who recently lost his father to Parkinson’s disease. “It’s a beautiful day, and of course the pancakes are good. It’s a great way to spend a Saturday morning. “
In addition to hosting a fun event to build community and provide free food, many student volunteers were inspired to get involved with P4P because of their personal connections to the cause. Almost everyone who works at one station named a loved one they had lost to Parkinson’s disease and expressed hope that organizations like Pancakes for Parkinson’s would be able to help find a cure.
“My great-uncle has Parkinson’s disease, so it’s in my family history,” said Blair Belford, a freshman at the college. “So I hope to be able to help fund the search for a cure. I just think it sounds like a really fun time, but at the same time a really good bunch of people who actually want to do something big.
As in Belford, volunteers are committed to bringing something greater than themselves to benefit in honor of friends and family battling Parkinson’s disease, with many members of the committee joining. the club this year after a lack of involvement last year due to COVID-19.
“It’s good that at 20, we were having such a big event, and everyone is really engaged, and everyone takes it seriously,” said Wulf. “It’s just great to be here, to be involved and to see Parkinson’s patients or their families coming, and it makes you feel really connected to the University and to others. students working there.
When asked about the impact of the pandemic on the event’s operations, Pancakes for Parkinson’s members and former attendees almost universally agreed that the event seemed very similar to its setup in the past. University COVID-19 regulations did not require masks for those vaccinated because the event was taking place outdoors, but some volunteers and participants chose to mask themselves based on their personal comfort level. All the cooks were gloved on, and the hotplates were scraped and cleaned between batches of pancakes. The ability to once again host an outdoor event for the whole community to come together helped Pancakes for Parkinson’s meet its goals of fundraising and community awareness and support.
“There are more people wearing masks and whatever they’re comfortable with,” Wulf said. “Fortunately, it’s outside – it would be very problematic if it was inside. “
Although many of the few thousand attendees during the day were college students en route to the game, many Charlottesville residents and family members of Parkinson’s patients attended just for the event. For some, this event is a special way to honor and celebrate the lives of their loved ones every year.
The sense of community support was really present at Pancakes for Parkinson’s – not all of the volunteers and participants had a personal connection to Parkinson’s disease, but many of those who did were particularly touched by the advocacy of so many. hard-working university students. A Charlottesville resident spoke about the tenacity of her sister, who recently died of Parkinson’s disease, and the importance for her to see students involved in a disease that most commonly affects older people.
“I have seen people with the disease who have lost a lot of their mental capacity, lost their physical capacity, but one thing about my sister is that she never gave up,” said the resident. “She went from a two-wheeled bike to a three-wheeled bike, and she went from yoga to yoga for Parkinson’s disease, and she always had the spirit of the lion. And even though it is often an older disease, I like to see young people doing that, raising awareness.