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Love drives fundraising for research

Date: 9/1/2009

By Debbie Gardner

PRIME Editor

HAMPDEN Here in America, two out of every 1,000 people will be diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder characterized by muscle tremors and stiffness.

Three and a half years ago, Vinny Mandolini's wife, Dalma, became part of that statistic.

As a longtime member of the Cyclonauts bicycling club, Mandolini has ridden in many charity events. After her diagnosis, Dalma suggested he ride for Parkinson's.

But it wasn't easy to find a cycling event supporting Parkinson's research in New England until last summer, when Mandolini came across a ride in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. Mandolini signed up and convinced fellow Cyclonaut John Marcil of Agawam to ride with him.

This Sept. 12 Mandolini, Marcil and a few more avid bikers from Western Massachusetts will be heading to Old Orchard Beach again to take part in the second annual New England Parkinson's Ride. Proceeds from the ride will once again benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.

"Last year they only had 33 or 34 riders, but this year we got a little bit more involved," Mandolini told Reminder Publications.

Among those Mandolini convinced to join him this year are fellow Cyclonaut Ray Leduc and his wife from Enfield, Conn., and Mandolini's daughter, Susan Jones of Wilbraham.

Mandolini's other daughter and son-in-law, Laura and Jeff Wormuth of Franklin, Mass., have volunteered to run one of the snack stops along the route.

"I'm trying to get people more involved around here," Mandolini said. "Every little bit helps."

Mandolini said interested cyclists can still sign up at right up to the day of the event. Riders can choose to participate in a 30-, 50- or 100-mile loop ride, or a short 10-mile family ride.

"Some [loops] are in the country, some by the water," ride coordinator Edna Wood explained. "Maine has a lot of good shoulders and paths along the side of the road that makes it easy for riders."

Mandolini said all riders are asked to make a $100 donation - "they have to raise it to register" - and that the monies are "donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation."

"Last year we raised $27,000 with 35 riders," Wood said.

This year they have 75 riders signed up so far, and a goal of $35,000.

"I hope we make it. With the economy, you just don't know," she said.

More Western Mass connections

Wood praised Mandolini's efforts to recruit Western Massachusetts riders, referring to the 70-year-old as "a ball of fire."

She also said Mandolini's crew isn't the only contingent from the region who will be heading to Maine for the ride.

Wood's son, Chris, attended Springfield College and still has many friends in the area. An avid cyclist who was diagnosed with Parkinson's at age 40, he's recruited several friends to ride the 100-mile loop with him.

In addition, Chris' brother-in-law was in the area recently on business and stopped to visit with a college buddy from the University of New Hampshire. Spying a bike in his friend's garage, he suggested his buddy sign up for the ride.

His friend, Michael Levin, said he was already riding in the event for his mother, Bobby Levin, former director of adult programs at the Jewish Community Center of Springfield and founder of the Ms. Senior MA Pageant. She was diagnosed with Parkinson's eight years ago.

How you can help

Wood explained that anyone wishing to support a rider, or just the cause, can do so in several ways.

"They can make a check out to the Michael J. Fox Foundation, put the rider's name in the notes section and send it to the New England Parkinson's Ride, 11 Greatstone Drive, Merrimack, N. H., 03054," she said.

Donations can also be made online at

"There's a place where they can put the rider's name in," Wood explained. "For now you put your credit card info in, hit submit and you can put in [that the donation] is in memory of, click on the [rider's] name in a scroll, or just donate to the ride."

Donations can also be sent locally to the Jewish Community Center of Springfield, 1160 Dickinson St., Springfield, MA 01106 marked attention: Bobby Levin.