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Marlins pitcher Trevor Richards helps to raise funds to ‘strike out’ Parkinson’s

Miami Marlins pitcher Trevor Richards (36) pitches during the first inning of a spring training game against the New York Mets at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter. Richards is participating in the Blechman Foundation’s Baseball Challenge “Strikeout PD!” to raise funds for research into Parkinson’s disease.
Miami Marlins pitcher Trevor Richards (36) pitches during the first inning of a spring training game against the New York Mets at the Roger Dean Chevrolet Stadium in Jupiter. Richards is participating in the Blechman Foundation’s Baseball Challenge “Strikeout PD!” to raise funds for research into Parkinson’s disease. dsantiago@miamiherald.com

Imagine your hands shaking without you realizing. Then imagine you start walking slower and slower. You can’t keep your balance and you start to trip and fall. Your muscles become more rigid each day. Your speech slurs. When you go to the doctor you are given a devastating diagnosis: Parkinson’s disease.

The symptoms will get worse. There is no cure.

In April, as I remember my own mother, Bea Moss, and her struggle with this horrible disease, we raise awareness and funds for scientific studies to battle PD.

One significant group is the Blechman Foundation. Every April, siblings and Miami natives David and Melissa Blechman honor their mom, who was diagnosed with PD in 2012 at age 50. This is the fifth consecutive year of the Blechman Foundation’s Baseball Challenge in which an MLB player helps raise money for Parkinson’s disease research.

The fundraising challenge is called “Strikeout PD!” For the 2019 effort, Miami Marlins right-handed pitcher Trevor Richards is partnering with the Blechman Foundation to encourage people to pledge money for each of his strikeouts in April.

“April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month and the start of the Major League Baseball season, so conducting the Baseball Challenge for PD research that month was a natural, like a hand in a glove,” said David Blechman, the foundation’s president.

PD affects about 1 million people in the U.S. annually. It destroys brain cells that are essential for normal movement.

The foundation has raised more than $300,000 — including more than $80,000 in the annual Baseball Challenge — to fund seven grants.

The scientists they support have identified a mutated gene that is the cause of PD in about 90 percent of patients. As a result, a drug that can inhibit this gene’s formation may be useful in treating nearly all PD patients. Other grants have funded research regarding gene therapy to block PD, and a study to explain how PD is toxic to brain cells and leads to neurodegeneration.

There has also been a joint project by Harvard University and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center to re-purpose certain drugs to reduce toxins in the brain that cause PD. The Blechman Foundation invites everyone to take the Baseball Challenge and pledge money to “Strikeout PD!”

To make a pledge, visit www.blechmanfoundation.org.

Sts. Peter & Paul School reunion

The many students who started school in 1948 at Sts. Peter & Paul Catholic School have gathered for years at reunions to remember their childhood experiences and celebrate their lifelong friendships.

“We are a most unusual class, having begun at Sts. P&P in September 1948. We are still tight after all these years,” said Miami historian Paul George. “We’ve staged innumerable reunions since then because we are close and cherish the many years we spent together at Sts. Peter & Paul.”

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Historian Paul George Miami Herald file

The friends have held interim events “in the guise of the Turkey Bowl and its little brother, the Santa Claus Bowl” since the 1950s. They began these when they were in seventh grade and ninth grade. The 70th anniversary will be April 6 and will be a series of activities that include a gathering at a classmate’s home and lunch at El Pub on Calle Ocho.

The group will also take a tour of the Ball & Chain music hall and bar on Southwest Eighth Street and visit their old school.

“Two guardian angels, as our nuns would have characterized them, have stepped forward to take care of the expenses of our dinner and beverages,” George said. “We’ve been blessed to share our early years and, for many of us, the preponderance of our lives beyond as friends. I have been fortunate to call my earliest friends my best friends.”

So far, 35 attendees including classmates, spouses, significant others, and representatives of deceased class members are signed up. For information, contact George at Miamihistorian@gmail.com or 305-206-4025.

Beach High fundraiser

Everyone is invited to celebrate the many rewarding activities, programs, sports and resources provided to students at Miami Beach High at “Tropical Night at The National.” The fundraiser, hosted by the school’s PTSA, is from 7:30 to 11:30 p.m., April 5, at the National Hotel, 1677 Collins Ave. The National, a member of Historic Hotels of America, is underwriting the event.

The gala will feature entertainment and refreshments under the stars as well as a silent auction. Tickets are $50 per person and include a welcome drink and appetizers. They can be purchased in advance at “Tropical Night at the National” online or at the door.

Villagers hunt

“Larkin-about the City of Pleasant Living” is the theme for the 2019 Villagers’ Annual Historic Hunt & Road Rally. This popular clue-solving event is open to all and begins at 2 p.m., April 13, at Chamber South, 6410 SW 80th St., South Miami.

No experience is needed for this adventure that finishes with a barbecue at 4:30 p.m. Registered teams of up to six participants drive their own vehicles on a quest to find some of the area’s most interesting historic spots. The Villagers have been hosting Historic Hunts for over 30 years. Tickets are $10 per person for the Hunt, or $45 per person for the Hunt and dinner.

Purchase through Villagers members or online at www.thevillagersinc.org.

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Neyda Raola, scholarship winner Raphaella Alexandre, and Miriam Salazar at a Bollywood event to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Lori Brener Scholarship Fund of Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami.

Scholarship event sells out

Close to 400 guests danced the night away at a Bollywood-themed event at the home of hosts Cecil and Ana Milton to celebrate the sixth anniversary of the Lori Brener Scholarship Fund of Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami. Karim J. Alibhai, principal of Gencom, served as honorary chairman and presenting sponsor, along with co-chairs Renee Lopez-Cantera and Carol Chin.

Co-chairs Betty Barrios and Neyda Raola, Gale Nelson, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters Miami, welcomed guests and introduced Raphaella Alexandre, recent recipient of the Lori Brener Scholarship. Raphaella shared the story of her life in Haiti, her new life in America, and how receiving the scholarship changed her life.

Miriam Salazar, Lori Brener’s mother, received recognition and a proclamation for her commitment to the program from the Miami-Dade School Board by former Florida Lt. Gov. Carlos Lopez-Cantera.

Brener was born in Miami, and graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in fine arts and drama. Working in Los Angeles, she became a successful commercial, video and film producer. She volunteered with Big Brothers Big Sisters along with her mother, but sadly, she died young. Her legacy lives on through this meaningful event. To make a donation, contact Jessie Rosario at jrosario@bbbsmaimi.org.

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