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TEAM ROSSI's Zumbathon


On October 14, 2011 I was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s disease. I was 37 years old and a mother to two children. That day changed my life.

I participated in my first Unity Walk in April, 2012. TEAM ROSSI raised over $5,000 in its first year! I was eager to get a head start on 2013. My goal is to exceed the amount of money our team raised last year and we are well on our way.

The idea: In July, 2012, I started kicking around the idea of a Zumbathon. It was something I enjoyed doing in the past and thought it might be a good way to raise some money for the PUW. My friend, Lynn Sullivan is a licensed Zumba instructor. I’ve enjoyed her classes and approached her with my idea.  She said “YES” without thinking twice about it. My birthday and the anniversary of my receiving my diagnosis are four days apart in October, so that was the perfect time for me to schedule this fundraiser. I was bound and determined to show that I may have PD, but PD doesn’t have me.

Cutting to the chase, about 75 people participated in the Zumbathon and the event raised close to $4,000. Read on to find out how we did it.

The venue: I was hoping to find a comfortable space that would not charge a high fee. I have been a lifelong member of my church and went to see my pastor, Father Mike. I told him what I wanted to do and he said “We will get this done.”  

Raising money: I spoke to a friend who helped organize school fundraisers and she led me on my path to a “tricky tray.”  I created a flyer and along with my friends and family, approached local businesses asking them to post the flyer and donate a prize for the “tricky tray.” We collected a total of three door prizes and 33 “tricky tray” prizes. I was pleasantly surprised by the generosity of those that gave. I also advertised the fundraiser in my church bulletin for four Sundays.  

Logistics: We needed a sound system that was loud enough to be heard throughout the gym. Thankfully, through my dad’s friend, Rich, who is a retired stagehand from Broadway, we were able to borrow a sound system and a microphone.  

We allowed enough time for the participants to check out the “tricky tray” and collect their prizes. The price of admission was $15.00. For their fee, they were given 3 door prize tickets and 10 tricky tray tickets. Friends volunteered to collect the money and sign everyone in. The sign in sheet doubled as a waiver which Lynn needed for insurance purposes. Lynn also provided her own insurance certificate.

Day of the event: We posted signs leading to the Zumbathon and hung blue and silver balloons, the “official” TEAM ROSSI colors. Family and friends helped me set up and decorate the gym as well as set up the prize tables. It was coming together. Some of us wore our “TEAM ROSSI” Walk t-shirts. Others wore the PUW t-shirts. My anxiety crept in that morning. What if no one came? It’s like planning a party and you don’t know if anyone will show. I was overjoyed when by 2:00pm on that rainy Sunday afternoon, friends, family, neighbors, and strangers all started coming through the door. They brought with them their generosity and their willingness to have fun. My kids were there and then some of their friends started coming through the door. We had one whole row of girls that were having as much fun as the adults were. People who had never done Zumba before came out to support TEAM ROSSI and I was in awe. I made some brief opening remarks about my story, why I created TEAM ROSSI, and why I was hoping this event would be a success and continue until there was a cure for PD.  

We had a great time thanks to Lynn’s awesome instruction and choice of music that kept us going. I took periodic breaks and walked around the gym that day. Those in the back were having as much fun as those in the front. The music was pumping and people were smiling. It made me proud to see so many people participating, especially as I wasn’t sure how many people would show up.  

Lessons learned: Next time, we will use social media and the local newspaper more to promote the event. We will also include the PUW site information for online donations as well as letting them know to make the checks payable to the Parkinson’s Unity Walk.  

Get moving! The important thing for all PUW teams to remember is that you don’t have to wait until the immediate months before the Walk to hold a fundraiser. Fundraise throughout the year! As for TEAM ROSSI, we are already talking about our next fundraiser. I have high hopes that we will continue to break our team’s fundraising record every year until PD is cured.

Vanessa Rossi
Team Captain, Team Rossi