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Spartans Uniting with Kirk Gibson to Battle Parkinson’s Disease

A team of MSU luminaries will gather at a unique fundraiser that unites the Spartan Nation in raising $1 million to fight Parkinson’s disease—or, as Kirk Gibson has nicknamed it, “Parky.” The Gibby & Friends vs. Parky pregame tailgate will be hosted in MSU’s Kellogg Center at 4:00 this Saturday September 23, four hours before the Notre Dame football game that kicks off at 8:00 that evening. On that same day Gibson will be on campus as MSU will honor his accomplishments by retiring his football jersey at halftime of the game.

Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon, Spartans Athletics Director Mark Hollis, head coaches Tom Izzo, Mark Dantonio, and Jake Boss Jr., along with Detroit Tigers legend Alan Trammell, football hall of famer Morten Andersen, and a growing roster of special guests will also stand together to unite forces against this formidable challenge.

MSU alumnus Peter Secchia is spearheading the effort and helping to organize the event.

Gibson was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2015 and in 2016 made a decision to go public with his journey.

“It was an easy decision for me to go public with my condition because if you can make a difference, you must make a difference,” says Gibson. “Ultimately, we want to get people who would normally not get together to get together and share their information and be innovative in ways to attack Parkinson’s disease.”

The mission of the fundraiser is to fund collaborative research taking place within the Grand Rapids Medical Corridor.  Several years ago community leaders set out to build a collaborative medical community.

This effort has helped to attract top scientists from around the world and MSU now has several teams in Grand Rapids dedicated to research on Parkinson’s disease.  These teams are working on many breakthroughs including one that could significantly slow the progression of Parkinson’s.

“The symbol of the event is to emphasize the need for great research,” Simon says. “We need people talking to each other in new and different ways so that we can really tackle Parkinson’s on all fronts.”

Finding a cure for a complex disease like Parkinson requires a team approach that brings together ideas and expertise of doctors, scientists and funders. 

“Cooperation and collaboration is the mantra, which has always been a Michigan State mantra,” adds Secchia.

Parkinson's disease itself is not fatal. However, complications from the disease are serious; the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) rated complications from PD as the 14th top cause of death in the United States. There is currently no cure for Parkinson's. 

Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Most people's symptoms take years to develop, and they live for years with the disease.

In short, a person's brain slowly stops producing a neurotransmitter called dopamine. With less and less dopamine, a person has less and less ability to regulate their movements, body and emotions.

“It’s not about me; it’s about a huge community,” adds Gibson. “I’m doing this because it’s my obligation to give back. I believe in that 100 percent. We just want to beat this somehow, and we don’t care who gets the credit.

“Hopefully our event can encourage others to organize events to help people and someday find a cure for this disease.”

“Stepping into the batter’s box in 84 with the Tigers and 88 with the Dodgers, Gibby became an icon as he was pulling teams and cities to positive places,” says Hollis. “And that’s what Gibby’s doing once again; he’s stepping into the batter’s box and he’s pulling an effort forward that’s going to impact so many people beyond him.”

All donations received from the public will support the collaborative Parkinson’s research being done by scientists and physicians at Michigan State University, The Van Andel Research Institute, Spectrum Health and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s.

Individual tickets can be purchased online at: givingto.msu.edu/events/gibby or by calling (517) 884-1038.

MSU Today airs Sunday afternoons at 4:00 on 94.5 FM and AM 870.

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