House Call: How One Funder is Helping Parkinson’s Patients Get the Care They Need

photo: Ocskay Mark/shutterstock

photo: Ocskay Mark/shutterstock

Parkinson’s diseases is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that produces a number of symptoms ranging from muscle stiffness and resting tremors to cognitive impairment and mood disorders. Around 1 million people in the United States are living with Parkinson’s disease—which is more than the number of people with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) combined.

While Parkinson’s sufferers such as Michael J. Fox and the late Muhammad Ali have used their celebrity status to raise awareness for the disease, governmental funding to support Parkinson’s research is pretty limited—around $160 million last year. And although funding for research is essential, treatment is crucial to helping those who suffer from the disease.

    Over time, Parkinson’s patients develop increasingly debilitating motor and nonmotor complications. Not only do these symptoms impair their quality of life, but they can also leave patients homebound and unable to travel to receive the treatment they need. While the days of doctors making house calls are long gone, one couple is trying to bring the practice back for Parkinson’s patients.

    GoDaddy founder Bob Parsons, along with his wife Renee, donated $4 million to the Barrow Neurological Institute to establish the Lonnie and Muhammad Ali Legacy Care program. Funding for the new program will allow Barrow medical staff to provide care for Parkinson’s patients who are homebound, live in rural areas, or are otherwise unable to travel to the institute due to mobility complications. Barrow medical is providing care to patients in their homes through telemedicine, video chat, and access to technology that allows patients to participate in activities such as support groups, training, and lectures remotely. One of the primary goals of the program is to help Parkinson’s suffers maintain a better quality of life and to receive the same level of care as they would at Barrow.

    At the announcement of the gift, Renee Parsons said, “Lonnie shared her belief with us that everyone engaged in the fight against this debilitating diseased should get the same attention and dedication that her husband received.”

    The donation came from the Bob and Renee Parsons Foundation, the main philanthropic vehicle for the couple. Founded in 2012, the foundation initially focused on helping critically wounded military veterans and improving the lives of those living in poverty. The Parsons Foundation has since expanded its giving interests to six main areas of focus including youth, medical, veterans, education, homelessness, and supporting the American dream. This work encompasses endeavors such as helping children with life threatening illnesses, ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic, supporting undocumented students with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) status, and supporting LGBTQ youth—just to name a few.

    Related: IP Profile of Bob Parsons

    The foundation has a few funding interests abroad as well, namely, helping Haiti recover from multiple natural disasters. When the 2010 earthquake hit, the Parsons Foundation donated $4 million and partnered with Hope for Haiti, an organization that has been working to help the Haitian people for over two decades. As the poor island nation continued its struggle to recover from the devastating 2010 earthquake, Hurricane Matthew hit in 2016. The Parsons Foundation jumped in to help again, announcing that it would match up to $250,000 in funds donated to Hope for Haiti to support response and recovery activities.

    Related: As Haiti Struggles to Recover From Disaster (Again), Who’s Helping?

    The foundation has grown its support toward improving the quality of life for the Haitian people, donating a total of $7.5 million. Its support to help those suffering from Parkinson’s disease continues to grow as well.

    Beginning in 2012, the foundation donated $1 million to the Celebrity Fight Night Foundation, for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center. One year later, in 2013, the foundation granted the center an additional $1 million via the Barrow Neurological Foundation. While Parsons continued to award $1 million grants to Barrow over the past few years, its latest $4 million award is the largest to date.