Long-time Unity Walk advocate Tamra Cantore recounts her involvement and success managing countless Parkinson’s fundraisers around the country.
How long have you been fundraising? How did you get started?
Tamra Cantore has been fundraising for Parkinson’s disease research for more than twenty years. She got started when she learned about and attended the Parkinson’s Policy Forum, an advocacy conference in Washington, DC that connects Parkinson’s community members with legislators. A wonderful event for information sharing, it was there that Tamra learned about the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. Tamra attended her first Unity Walk that same year, where she met President and CEO Carol Walton.
How have you been involved with the Parkinson’s Unity Walk?
Tamra was impressed with the mission of the Unity Walk and their ability to guarantee that 100% of all money donated to the Walk directly funds Parkinson’s disease research. She became engaged in this event even though it was in New York and she was living in Atlanta. She enlisted the support of her work colleagues at The Weather Channel and other cable industry associates that worked in New York. At its peak, Team Cantore’s members totaled roughly 80 people, and the team raised over $70,000 that year.
As a former senior staff member of The Weather Channel, she also leveraged her professional contacts in the cable industry to enhance her fundraising impact. Tamra was known to always look at ways to improve her events, and this included searching for new event locations for the best event experience. Several of her events had different locations over the years. It was a lot of extra work but she always went the extra mile!
Tamra’s connections have helped to bring global awareness to the Unity Walk. For many years, The Weather Channel brought their satellite truck to the Walk for live global interviews. It was amazing exposure for the event. Tamra also secured pro bono local television advertising time through Manhattan Cable to run Public Service Announcements regarding the Walk and valued at $250,000 in the first year alone. She also worked with her production contacts to develop and create the PSA messages as part of a multimedia campaign.
What types of Parkinson’s fundraising events have you run or been a part of?
Tamra and Team Cantore have hosted many types of events over the years. She adopted the strategy that any get-together, any reunion, retirement party, a celebration of life, no matter how big or small, was an opportunity to designate Team Cantore as the beneficiary of donations (100% of which went to Parkinson’s research.) Other fundraising activities ranged from a CHICK-FIL-A Night to a Golf Tournament, and even a gold sale to name a few.
What is your favorite aspect of running a Parkinson’s fundraising event?
One of the most rewarding aspects of managing these events is the opportunity to network and connect people for the benefit of all parties involved and to meet and work with others in the Parkinson’s community. Friendships form, people are inspired, and everyone works towards a shared goal. This encouragement helps Tamra focus on the positive impact of her activities rather than her condition. Fundraising has fueled Tamra and given her tenacity and meaningful goals to strive towards.
Can you share a bit about your personal Parkinson’s journey?
Tamra grew up in a rural farming community in Ohio close to a manmade lake. Her family later found out that the lake was full of chemicals from adjacent fields of local crops, which she believes triggered her predisposition for Parkinson’s disease. Both of her grandfathers had Parkinson’s. Tamra was officially diagnosed at 40, two years after her original misdiagnosis. Tamra’s treatment plan and quality of life greatly improved after working with a movement disorder specialist.
Is there anyone you would like to thank for their help in your fundraising efforts?
There are simply too many to thank! An abridged list: Carol Walton of Parkinson’s Unity Walk; Dr. Jorge Juncos of the Emory Movement Disorder Clinic, Decker Anstrom, Debra Wilson of The Weather Channel; country singer and songwriter Jeffrey Steele, Paul Doster of Cue Barbecue, who provided catering at events for many years; my first walk team: Becky Ruthven, Ann Hart, Jody Fennell, Nancy Rowen, Mary Busby, Shelee Brenneman, Kathy Kane, Kim Cantu and Julie Shirley, the first co-captain of my Unity Walk team; The Co-Directors of CRR, Beth Patrick and Brenda Thompson; my 501(c)(3) fundraising partner Bill Wilkins; and to our main financial supporters the Davisson Family/Shermin Williams and The Voight Family.
Interview with Tamra Cantore, 10/2021