A love for ’80s movies and a passion for a cause turned into a new endeavor for sophomore Ari Turobiner. One of his favorite movies is “Back to the Future,” and Turobiner had an idea based on one of the actors in the movie: Michael J. Fox.
“I don't care about fraternities, sororities. I respect it and I get it, but at the same time, it's not for every student on campus,” Turobiner said. “This is something — an event that literally as you're walking by from class — you could just go to and participate in.”
Turobiner started a chapter on campus of Pancakes for Parkinson’s, an event that benefits the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Disease Research. Turobiner lost his great aunt to the disease and wears a bracelet each day in her honor.
“It brings in a community aspect with Team Fox and Parkinson's, and is very personal since I've been raising money for Parkinson's since I was 13,” Turobiner said. “That's seven years of raising money for Parkinson's. It just feels very — I can't explain it — just natural. I feel like it's the right thing for me to do at Elon.”
Parkinson’s is a brain disorder that causes uncontrollable movements, shaking and difficulty with balance. On May 12, a documentary about Fox is set to be released on Apple TV+ called “STILL.” At 29 years old, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. One way the disease affects Fox is through his ability to walk.
"People around me are going, 'Be careful, be careful,'" Fox said in the documentary. "And I'm like, 'This has nothing to do with being careful. This happens.'"
In a statement to Elon News Network, Vice President of Community Fundraising for Team Fox Liz Diemer said the foundation is energized by community engagement.
“Today, the Parkinson’s pipeline of better treatments and therapies is brimming with possibilities,” Diemer wrote. “This sort of progress wouldn’t be possible without our active Team Fox community of fundraisers like those at Elon University who are coming together in an endlessly fun and delicious way through Pancakes for Parkinson’s to raise funds and awareness. In fact, this is how I first got involved with MJFF almost two decades ago at my own alma mater. We’re thrilled to cheer on our next generation of friends who are joining our passionate community and bringing us closer to a cure.”
At a “Back to the Future” premiere, Fox began experiencing a jittery finger, but Fox did not make his diagnosis known to the public until 1998. In 2000, the Michael J. Fox Foundation started with one goal: find a cure for Parkinson’s. According to the National Institute of Health, 500,000 live with the disease, but as many as 1 million could have it including those who go undiagnosed.
When Turobiner had this idea, he looked at other universities that had successful chapters, such as the University of Virginia, who started the organization 20 years ago. For Turobiner, he wants starting this chapter to be his legacy.
Turobiner has been working on this project for a year. He hopes to have a pancake event to educate the community on Parkinson’s and become a bigger presence on campus.
“It’s been happening for a long time. It's an actual issue. It's sad,” Turobiner said. “I'm hoping that we can find a cure and I'm hoping that people just spread the word on campus.”