Skate-a-thon continues woman’s legacy, raises funds for Parkinson’s disease

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January 10th, 2014

Omaha, NE – Colleen Weubben was determined to create a fundraiser for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. At that time in 2008, Colleen had been living with Parkinson’s disease for three years.
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Colleen and her husband, Ted, decided to host a skate-a-thon in their backyard.

“For 25 or so years we flooded our back yard out to make sure our kids got out of the house during the winter,” Ted said. “The guy next to me said ‘why don’t you have a skate-a-thon?'”

This year marks the seventh Skate-a-thon for Parkinson’s and the first that Colleen won’t be attending. She died February 13 at the age of 60.

Ted and Colleen Weubben started the Skate-a-thon to raise money for Parkinson's disease research. (Photo Courtesy UNMC)

Ted and Colleen Weubben started the Skate-a-thon to raise money for Parkinson’s disease research. (Photo Courtesy UNMC)

“She was at the Skate-a-thon last year and she passed away two weeks later. She loved skating in the morning. She said sunrise was the best time to skate so we’re going to have a sunrise tribute to her,” Ted said.

Much has changed since the first skate-a-thon at the Weubben’s home.

Kevin Powers, the nephew of the Weubben’s, said the event went from being a family affair to a community event.

This year, he and his team—dubbed Team Colleen–  will skate 24-hours in honor of his aunt.

“It was pretty small at first. Just some family and friends over their house. It just kept getting bigger and bigger. UNMC stepped in and they had the perfect rink for it. It really helped turn into a big fun event for the whole Omaha area,” Powers said.

The University of Nebraska Medical Center began hosting the skate-a-thon in 2011. The event has gone on to raise more than $110,000 for Parkinson’s research and birth new programs for people living with the disease.

Monnie Lindsay was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1994. She is a founding board member for the Parkinson’s Health Development Program, a non- profit, local program that offers affordable exercise classes for people living with Parkinson’s. The program was founded by Colleen.

“The PHD program offers about six classes a week at various locations in Omaha. We go and we have people who know Parkinson’s and they know what exercises are good for people who have Parkinson’s,”Lindsay said. “We go and we do the workouts and we also have fun together. We’ll laugh and joke around and be yet another support group for each other.”

The Skate-a-thon continues to support clinical research of Parkinson’s at UNMC. Dr. Howard Gendelman, chair of the Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience at UNMC, is currently conducting trials to develop a new immunotherapy to repair damaged cells in people with Parkinson’s .

“The Skate-a-thon has supported our new clinical trial on the new drugs and the new avenues of research that are being used right now at the medical center and affecting patients who are living in Omaha and all over the state and western Iowa that are the positive benefactors of the research underway. The monies that we gain are actually used directly for the research that’s being performed,” Gendelman said.

Ted said going from raising $3,500 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation to raising nearly $15,000 for his wife’s own program has been a humbling experience and achievement.

“It’s hard to talk about. I know the first year it was just amazing and every year the support has been unbelievable,” Ted said. “Everyone knows someone with Parkinson’s. Everyone knows someone who’s been affected, especially in Nebraska.”

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