Friends and Neighbors

Brother and sister from Pinecrest start Parkinson’s foundation

Siblings David and Melissa Blechman started the Blechman Foundation to honor their mother and other patients battling Parkinson’s Disease. The Foundation recently awarded its first grant toward new therapies and treatment research.
Siblings David and Melissa Blechman started the Blechman Foundation to honor their mother and other patients battling Parkinson’s Disease. The Foundation recently awarded its first grant toward new therapies and treatment research.

Special to The Miami Herald

To honor their mother and to help find a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, sister and brother Melissa and David Blechman created the Blechman Foundation. The siblings who grew up in Pinecrest said their inspiration, their mother, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2008 at the age of 50.

The Foundation’s mission is “to provide microfinancing for promising research by highly qualified scientists in need of equipment or other resources to commence or complete their work.”

“We are a brother-sister team. Together, we tapped our entrepreneurial spirit to form the Blechman Foundation in January 2012,” said Melissa Blechman, 28, who serves as the group’s vice-president. She now lives and works in New York.

The Foundation recently awarded its first grant to Shivraj Sohur, M.D., Ph.D., whose laboratory at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute of Neurodegenerative Diseases is studying breakthrough therapies for the treatment of patients with Parkinson’s.

“At the Blechman Foundation, our efforts are carving out a critical niche in Parkinson’s research – neuroprotective drugs. These drugs have the potential to slow or even halt the disease process before it develops and becomes symptomatic,” said Foundation President David Blechman, 25, who works in Chicago. “With support for this research, we’re hopeful that future generations may never experience [Parkinson’s] symptoms. Our mission has a unique focus – it sets us apart – and success would have global impact for neurological health.

“We’re so grateful for all of the encouragement and support we’ve received in the Miami community and beyond. My sister and I urge everyone to join us and make effective neuroprotection a reality – as soon as possible. It’s an issue that touches everyone and lives are depending on it.”

The group also supports the Dance For PD technique. To learn about the latest Parkinson’s research, donate, get involved, and for more on how dance helps Parkinon’s patients, visit


Patients with Parkinson’s are invited to get moving in free dance classes held every other week, on the second and fourth Fridays of the month, from 1-2 p.m. at St. Matthews Episcopal Church, 7410 Sunset Dr. in South Miami.

And if dance is not your thing there are also various activities on Wednesdays, from 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., also held at the church. Wednesday sessions can include yoga, music therapy and special speakers to help with information on how to battle this debilitating disease.

The classes are hosted by ParkOptimists, a local support group that operates as part of the National Parkinson Foundation South Florida Chapter. The group is always in need of volunteers and donations for its classes that provide temporary relief from the difficult symptoms of this disease. For more check out the Wellness Classes under the Resources tab at


Tudor Parfitt, who has been called the “British Indiana Jones” for his work and discoveries of remote Jewish communities and his pursuit of the Ark of the Covenant, is the guest speaker at the next luncheon hosted by the local chapter of the Brandeis National Committee.

Parfitt is the Florida International University Distinguished Professor in the Department of Religious Studies and Director of the Center of Global Jewish Communities. At the luncheon he will speak about the ancient tribes including the Lemba in Zimbabwe and the Gogodala in Western Papua New Guinea. Parfitt’s work includes exploration of Jewish genetic identity in Asia and Africa.

Before joining FIU, he was the director of the Jewish Studies Center at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London.

This event begins with coffee at 10:15 a.m., Sept. 24 at Temple Judea, 5500 Granada Blvd. (at U.S. 1 and Granada Boulevard) in Coral Gables. Reservations by Sept. 17 are a must for the luncheon. The cost is $28. For more call Jackie Leone at 305-665-4832 or Barbara Bulbin at 305-274-0206.


“Reach For the Stars” is the season’s first free public program presented by the Southern Cross Astros. FIU Research Astronomer James R. Webb will show a slow-motion video of the construction of the university’s new observatory and the recent installation of its silver dome roof.

There will also be information about the second floor round control room, that resembles a space ship, where faculty and students can open remote telescopes at the Kitt Peak National Observatory near Tucson, and in northern Chile.

Webb and Terry Oswalt, Dean of Space Science at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, have established a consortium of universities in SE United States to enable students to share astronomy information and the FIU remote telescopes. The universities are members of the Southeastern Association of Research Astronomers (SARA).

Webb received his doctorate degree at the University of Florida and has taught astronomy and physics at FIU for more than 20 years. He has dreamed of the observatory for more than a decade. Now through a generous donor, retired physics professor and scientist Dr. Carl Stocker, new university committees, enthusiastic architects, contractors, artists and SCAS Vice President Tim Khan, the dream is coming true.

A 24" diameter telescope will be installed later this year with the grand opening week beginning Nov. 12. The new Stocker AstroScience Center will feature visiting NASA VIPs, the designer of the latest space telescope and noted astronomers.

The free Southern Cross “Reach For the Stars” program will start at 8 p.m., Sept. 20 in the FIU Physics Building, CP-145 lecture hall. Park in the campus Red Garage, west side of southwest 109 Avenue/8th Street and follow the SCAS signs across the new patio to CP-145. For more information call 305-661-1375 or visit


The Children’s Voice Chorus is now holding auditions for children, ages 8-12, for its community-wide chorus. The group started in the fall of 2011 and has a mission to “shape the future by positively impacting the lives of young singers of all cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds through the highest quality choral music education.”

The beginning and intermediate levels currently have open spots and the auditions are being held at Old Cutler Presbyterian Church, 14401 Old Cutler Rd., in Palmetto Bay. Rehearsals are held weekly and are led by Founder and Artistic Director, Jamie Perez Sutta, who has a bachelor’s degree in Choral Music Education from the Florida State University, and a master’s degree from the University of Miami.

For more information, visit or send e-mail to You can also call 786-216-7003.

If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at

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