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COVID-19: Parkinson’s breakfast fundraiser finds innovative alternative

If you can't bring people to the breakfast because of the quarantine, then bring the breakfast to the people
Porridge for Parkinson's Bjorn Moller
Bjorn Moller is chair of the Porridge for Parkinson’s fundraiser. As a board member with the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Institute at UBC, he’s proud of the ground-breaking research that the fundraiser helps make possible.

As chair of the Odlum Brown VanOpen tennis tournament, Carlota Lee has been a multi-tasking powerhouse. Her attention for detail earns her plaudits from players and fans alike; her energy often seemed limitless.

So no one was more surprised than she was when, a year ago, her legs wouldn’t do what she wanted them to. Instead of running, she could only shuffle. Maybe she was just over-tired. But then in exercise class she couldn’t keep her balance. When she wrote longhand, her lettering became really tiny. This wasn’t just tiredness.

Her quest to find out what was happening to her body led her to neurologist Martin McKeown, the director of the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre at the University of British Columbia. Although there are no “tests” for Parkinson’s, he was able to ascertain that Lee had the progressive nervous system disorder.

“I was shocked,” Lee says. Like many people, she associated Parkinson’s with hand tremors, which she didn’t have. It’s also more common among men.

Porridge for Parkinson's deliver
Five-hundred people recently received a beautifully curated Porridge for Parkinson’s breakfast to be enjoyed on Sept. 13. Helping to spearhead the fundraising initiative are Carlota Lee, Bjorn Moller and Rochelle Moller. photo Christine Chung

A year later, Lee has benefited greatly from the advances made at the PPRC. She might not multi-task any more but when she takes on a project, she still pours her formidable energy into it (including continuing to chair the VanOpen, which was cancelled this year because of COVID-19.

An annual fundraiser for the PPRC is a breakfast meeting called Porridge for Parkinson’s. Usually people gather in someone’s home to listen to presentations about advances and treatments, as well as ask questions of specialists. Porridge is on the menu (as is scotch in tribute to Scotland’s legacy of oatmeal recipes.)

This year’s event on the North Shore had to be cancelled because of the coronavirus pandemic and public health restrictions. But if you can’t bring people to the breakfast, Lee thought, bring the breakfast to the people.

Porridge for Parkinson's bowls
Surrounded by bowls donated by Gourmet Warehouse, volunteers Joyce Langridge, Rachel Lee and Barb Annable prepare to assemble the Porridge for Parkinson’s gift packages. photo Carlota Lee

Working with the local committee led by Bjorn Moller, Lee and fellow volunteers approached key sponsors to help pull together 500 Porridge for Parkinson’s gift packages which were hand-delivered to past and prospective donors. Inside each beautifully crafted box – “We wanted to have a ‘Wow!’ effect,” Lee says — are all the fixings for a gourmet breakfast that the recipients are invited to enjoy on Sun., Sept. 13.

There won’t be a Zoom gathering but people are invited to enjoy content posted on Pacific Parkinson’s Research Institute’s website with the help of CKNW’s Larry Gifford.

Online donations to PPRI, an innovative charity dedicated to helping make the ground-breaking research at the PPRC possible, are welcome here. More information can be found on the research institute's website here.

The committee is grateful for the support of its partners: Gourmet Warehouse, Fresh St. Market, Belle & Roast Catering, Nature’s Path, Prospero International Realty, Ecstatic, Paper Queen, Derek and Carlota Lee, and Bjorn and Rochelle Moller.