An interview with Kate Harmon on Advocacy, Team Fox & the Michael J. Fox Foundation on August 8, 2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
I’m a recovering journalist who knows how to run Give Local York – our county’s 24-hour day of online giving where we raise millions for 300+ nonprofits. I spend my down time with my side hustles – running York City Special Events for our city – like NYE, Christmas tree lighting, etc. – as well as running my other business that runs Restaurant Week, and other beer/wine/food truck events. When I’m not doing all those things, I can be found at local restaurants or watching crime shows with my cats!
Please tell me a little about your background.
My Dad was diagnosed with PD in 2006. Our family started an annual golf tournament for MJFF and raised over half a million dollars in its 11-year run that ended in 2020 with COVID and the progression of my dad’s disease. They live in Florida, and I like Pennsylvania, so my husband and I also do Team Fox events here – running Shaken Not Stirred, a cocktail event that will break $750K over 6 years this year. Our family – including my twin who lives in Texas – have been longtime supporters of Team Foxers. We ran races, advocated on the hill, and done all the things.
Can you tell me more about your advocacy?
We’re all also known for taking phone calls and helping others who are recently diagnosed or struggling to find resources. 10 years ago in York, PA, when you googled York and Parkinson’s, I was the only thing that came up outside of doctors. Luckily that has changed!
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
We got involved because we knew we couldn’t “save” our father, but wanted to be a part of making sure no daughters go through this in the future when they’re a cure.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s awareness have when working with you?
Most of the time, when people come to me, they don’t even know where to start. So, I help with resources – doctors, support groups, exercise, just someone to talk to and say you’re not alone. The rest of the time, people come to me to have fun, make cocktails, and raise funds … be a part of something bigger than themselves, and often support those in their lives with PD by supporting my events.
What effect can your advocacy have on an individual with Parkinson’s awareness?
Years ago, a local woman my age reached out because her grandfather in Queens had PD and they were struggling with his doctor. He’s Spanish speaking and just wasn’t getting what he needed from his doc. Using resources through MJFF I was able to find him a new doc that he had until he passed last year. When I went with my now-friend to support her running the NYC Half Marathon for Team Fox, I met her grandmother, who in broken-Spanish grabbed my face and told me I saved them.
Another time, I met a guy at one of my events whose coworker suspected he had PD. I went over to say thanks for coming and brought my dad. My Dad saw him and immediately asked how long he’d been in his club. The man was diagnosed 6 months before and didn’t tell anyone. He talked with my dad for an hour, his wife with my mother, and the next day told one of our mutual friends it was the first day he woke up not wanting to die.
What would you like to see as a future goal for your advocacy?
Well, we’re going to cure Parkinson’s and find another cause to support. Right?!
What events do you participate in?
Anything Team Fox! But I won’t run, I’ll shake cowbells. I’ve done Unity Walks, created events like Pints for Parkinson’s, Shaken Not Stirred. I attend my friends’ events!
How does this also assist the caregivers?
Caregivers need love, too. Seeing my mother in the past 2 years really change into a full-time caregiver has been so hard. She can’t do it alone, we won’t let her, but so many others aren’t as lucky as we are to have the support network.
How can others become advocates?
Don’t be afraid to have hard conversations, to reach out to someone in need. To remind them we’re in this together.
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
Shaken Not Stirred is my FB page. Or just email me, I’m easy – email@example.com
If you had one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
Parkinson’s isn’t something I’d wish on anyone, but I am so grateful for the person it allowed my father, our family to become, the work we’ve done to support others and remind them they’re not alone, and the wonderful Team Fox family I wouldn’t have had without it.