Young adults receive award for fighting Parkinson's


NPF grants two young adults the 2010 Hope Award for Inspiring Community Leaders in honor of their fundraising efforts. Over the course of three years, Kasey and Kellie Gilbert held three "Playing for Par" golf tournaments, raising over $160,000. Read the full article from The Capital below.

Young adults receive award for fighting Parkinson's


After watching her grandmother suffer from the debilitating effects of Parkinson's disease for close to a decade before her death, Kasey Gilbert decided to take a stand against the disease.

Kasey and Kellie Gilbert, Jeff Forney and Katie Gilbert were awarded the 2010 National Parkinson Foundation’s Hope Award for Inspiring Community Leaders at the foundation’s annual Gala for Hope in Miami.

Just a teenager at the time, Kasey enlisted the help of her sisters, her boyfriend and her family and organized a golf tournament in her grandmother's honor, donating the proceeds to the National Parkinson Foundation.

The tournament, called "Playing for Par," has become an annual event. The three held thus far have netted more than $160,000 in funds to fight Parkinson's.

In recognition of their efforts, the Gilbert girls and Kasey's boyfriend, Jeff Forney, were presented with the 2010 NPF Hope Award for Inspiring Community Leaders. The foursome were flown to Miami for a weekend and given the award at the NPF Gala for Hope on Feb. 21.

"My grandma was lucky," said Kasey, who now attends the University of Maryland. "My grandfather could pay for her medical care. We have a big family so we could all pitch in but it was hard to watch my grandmother deteriorate. She was not a candidate for the brain surgery that is sometimes used to treat Parkinson's. She tried a host of medications but they made her feel worse. We had to wait it out and the end was not gentle."

Kasey wanted to help people who were suffering from the disease and also help those who have to watch a loved one struggle with the disease.

"When the girls first came to me and said they wanted to put together a golf tournament, I thought it was a great idea," said the Gilbert girls' mother, Beth. "I tried to explain to them that the event would require an incredible amount of work. But that didn't divert them. They did it. They organized the entire effort and recruited about 15 volunteers to help them. Most of the volunteers come back every year to help."

Kasey's dad, Barry Gilbert, is the golf course superintendent at Bowie Golf and Country Club, so finding a location for the event was not an issue. But Kasey, who was only 18 when the first tournament was held, had a hard time getting people to take her seriously. "I couldn't even open a bank account. My dad jumped in and helped get everything started," said Kasey.

Now seasoned tournament organizers, Kasey's sister Kellie primarily handles corporate sponsorships and solicits raffle items and donations from the community. Kellie works for Marriott, which has been an extremely generous corporate supporter since the tournament's inception.

Jeff, also a resident of Crofton, handles the accounting issues and tax-related tasks.

Katie, who is Kasey's sister and a kindergarten teacher at Nantucket Elementary School, coordinates the signage, set-up and logistics for the tournament.

"It is a huge group effort," said Kasey. "We are lucky to have a big family and great friends that we can rely on to come out and work the event." The October outing sells out every year with about 150 people hitting the greens and taking part in the luncheon that follows.

While the bulk of the money raised has gone to the National Parkinson's Foundation, the girls donated $12,000 to the local chapter to fund a dance class for Parkinson's sufferers and their spouses.

Ray Melago, who worked with Kasey's dad at the golf course, has played in the tournament for the past two years. Ray's wife, Claire, was an avid golfer and belonged to the women's league at the club. She now suffers from Parkinson's disease and resides in an assisted living facility. "The Gilberts have lived through the disease and they have all been so good to me," said Ray. "The girls have done an excellent job raising funds for Parkinson's and their award was well-deserved."

Kasey said it was an honor to receive the award and that meeting with the NPF program director was insightful as they were able to see how the donations are allocated. "The event was amazing," said Kasey. "There was dinner, dancing and bands, but the added bonus was that the gala raised even more money for the foundation through tickets sales and an auction."

-- Jennifer Ginn, for The Capital

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