CHAMPs > Parkinson's CHAMP

Woody Waga Team

Woody Waga Team
Montclair, NJ
Walking since 2016
Raised: Over $44,226 since 2016

Why I/We Walk:
As a PD victim myself for the past twelve years, at first, I was in denial. My second stage was to go into hiding so that my colleagues would not show sympathy or pity. Then reality set in.

I’ve always been a giver – not a taker. Well, how could I be a giver while in hiding? I’ve always believed that if you want to get a job done, do it at the grassroots level, and don’t wait for either the government or big business to do it for you. And so, I came out of hiding and began fundraising. I elected to raise funds for the Parkinson’s Unity Walk after meeting one of its founders, Ken Aidekman, in Washington, DC, while on a mission with The Michael J. Fox Foundation, successfully advocating for greater awareness and more PD research funding from Congress.

Fun Fact About Us:
The working component of my team is me and a couple of my immediate family members. The only help we needed was for the huge audience I know from my prior business life to be as generous as possible. Every year, I write a lengthy letter and my son-in-law helps me go through my 1,400-person directory and cull names and email addresses for forwarding. I use the same concept on Facebook, and my daughters re-post my letter to their friends.

Keys to Our Success:
Contrary to the belief that no one will read a very long letter, that’s what I do. People believed in me in my “prior life”, so they are interested in what I have to say now that I have a major problem. I sent out approximately 1,000 letters and received 250 donations.  That’s an average of $100 per donation and I’m okay with that.  

I believe home parties and social media are effective too.  However, I don’t view what I do as ‘success’. Success will be defined when there is a universal cure for PD, which addresses every symptom and similar conditions, i.e. dystonia, etc.

Why I/We love the Unity Walk:
It’s time to share life stories, contact people you know, and meet new people. What impresses me most is that 100% of all funds raised at the Walk go to research, unlike most other events. I want a cure in my lifetime so that I know that no one in the future will suffer. As I told Sen. Cory Booker when we met in Congress, “We have to make PD look like polio; no more.”

Team Leaders: A shout out goes to my son-in-law, Bob Schechter, who tirelessly met my deadlines for letter writing and thanking donors. Other family members assisted with grunt work but mostly by continuing to support me with love and care.

A strong postscript to all the above is this: Each time there is a PD breakthrough, I make it a point to notify many of my donors that it was largely due to their contribution that this level of success was achieved. I believe that is true.

Story by Heywood (Woody) Waga, 6.10.19

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