CHAMPs > Parkinson's CHAMP

September 2010 - JOE TEAM!

A Walk in the Park - or - Easy as Pie

There were two kinds of pie in play at the 16th Annual Unity Walk for Parkinson’s in Central Park this year: Pizza and humble.

The first fundraiser for the Parkinson’s cause since I have been out with my diagnosis was by any measure an enormous success. We basically sent an Announcement, a couple of followups and a Facebook invitation. For this trouble, we raised a ton of money and had almost 100 people walking with us in Central Park.

Then, as the day wound down, we ordered pizza for the 75 or so of us who were still at our spot. We ordered 20 Pies for 75 people. Figuring 160 slices would be about 2 slices each. We told the pizzeria we’d pick it up. They said, "No, we’ll call you when we leave and meet you at your spot in the park. No problem, we do it all the time."


As I crossed the finish line, the phone rang. The pizza was on its way and would arrive in 10 minutes. Yahtzee! Ten Minutes became twenty. Twenty became a half hour…then an hour…folks were leaving in droves now. Where was this guy?

"He’s by the lagoon." Jason shouted.

"Lagoon? I didn’t know there was a lagoon in the Park."

"Can you tell us where the lagoon is?" I asked a passing tourist, with a bright electric green ‘I LOVE NY’ t-shirt and matching electric pink ‘I LOVE NY’ baseball cap.

Charlene, Jason and I fanned out around Bethesda Fountain and Charlene found a Spanish speaking woman to call the Spanish speaking delivery guy and translate where we were. Our translator wound up calling Jason and we were no closer to Pizza than before…frustration and hunger were growing. Patience and time were dwindling.

"I’m going in. If I’m gone for more than a half hour, tell my son I loved him."

These may have been the last words we’d ever hear from Jason Kravits.

For the next ten minutes, we watched as Jason traversed the Bethesda pavilion and then there was nothing. Jason was gone. No sign. No trace. Nothing.

Charlene and I were unsure how we would explain, not so much to Jason’s son Charlie, that Daddy was gone, but to the remaining Joe Team-mates, that there would be no pizza.

As we gathered ourselves for the long walk back to base camp, we heard a faint, familiar voice way in the distance. "I got him! I GOT him. There WILL be Pizza TODAY!!!"

Jason triumphantly raced to us dragging the delivery boy and his pallet of pizza with him. We returned to base camp with the tired and scared delivery boy and 20 pizzas, for the 23 people who remained with us. We were so hungry though, we ate about 13 of the pies.

We tried giving the rest away, but NO ONE wanted it. A dozen homeless people said, "No, thanks" to our pizza.

Don’t worry though, it did not go to waste. I still have a couple dozen slices in the freezer…stop by for a slice…it’s awesome.

A story, five years in the making and probably, if I am going to be honest with myself, eight years too late. Five years ago, Charlene signed us up to walk in the Parkinson’s unity walk in Central Park. I had no desire to go. For a number of reasons, I had no desire to go to a walk for a disease I didn’t want to have and wanted no one to know that I had.

I mean, I certainly had Parkinson’s at the time but very few people were aware of this fact. Also, I had this uncanny ability of seeing someone I knew virtually everywhere I went in New York City at the time.

Well, this uncanny…uh…ness was once again...uh...uncanny. As we strolled around the two-mile walk on that sunny Saturday afternoon in April of 2006, I was basically in disguise. I had on sunglasses, which I rarely wear. I wore a baseball cap and kept my head down so as not to attract attention to myself.

Now, I’m certainly not famous by any stretch of imagination but at the time, I did have some on camera commercials running and every now and again someone would recognize me from television. I did not want to risk that happening.

As we strolled around the Park, I see a familiar little boy. I then not surprisingly see his father, my good buddy Jason Kravits.

"Hey, how’s it going? What are you guys doing in the Park?"

Charlene innocently says, "We are walking for Parkinson’s Disease."

"Noble. Who has PD?" Jason asked.

 "Oh, Joe’s grandmother."

"My grandfather."

In a moment straight out of a bad sitcom, Charlene and I had responded simultaneously. But since we were not in the bad sitcom Jason did not notice and so I covered…

"Yeah, both my grandmother and grandfather have Parkinson’s. So, you know, we walk," I nervously stated with a sort of chuckle.

Jason didn’t think twice. I wanted to throw up.

I spent the next four or five walks hiding behind sunglasses and a bowed head under a baseball hat.

This year was different. There was nowhere and no reason to hide. Most people know I have "the Park" so we walked in the Park. I had approximately 100 people in attendance and Joe Team raised $22,389 with little more than an email. We finished as the 5th highest team in dollars raised. Humbling.

The weather was perfect and the family and friends were amazing. I just wish I had gotten a chance to take a dip in the lagoon.