Each April, the Miami family behind the Blechman Foundation organizes a special event to raise funds for Parkinson’s disease research. They do it with the help of baseball.
This year, Miami Marlins starting pitcher Dan Straily is partnering with the foundation to encourage people to pledge money for every one of his strikeouts throughout April.
The Blechman Foundation’s fourth annual Baseball Challenge is called “Strikeout PD!”
Siblings David and Melissa Blechman, and their dad Bill Blechman, began their quest in 2012 to honor mom and wife Nancy, who was diagnosed at age 50 with the debilitating disease.
“April is National Parkinson’s Awareness month and the start of the MLB 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, in an email.
Straily, who throws from the right, is known for his consistency, durability, and strikeouts. In his seven-year MLB career, Straily has had 549 strikeouts.
From the inception of the foundation, baseball has always been a focus. Through their work, David and Melissa Blechman have learned that PD does not discriminate among its victims.
The disease has weakened and disabled many professional athletes, including boxing legend Muhammad Ali; baseball players Dave Parker and Kirk Gibson; basketball’s Brian Grant and Jerry Sloan; hockey’s Al Arbour; runners Roger Bannister and John Walker; football greats Lou Groza and Dave Jennings; and cyclist Davis Phinney.
Every year, Parkinson’s afflicts about one million people in the United States. It destroys brain cells that are essential for normal movement and patients experience shaking or tremors, slow movement, rigidity of muscles, and problems with balance and gait.
There is no known cure.
The Blechman Foundation and its Baseball Challenge have made a difference in PD research. The foundation has raised nearly $300,000, including more than $60,000 in the annual baseball challenges. So far, it has funded six grants for studies, which have had major scientific impacts.
“From modest beginnings, the Blechman Foundation has become national in scope, and the Foundation’s grants have truly made a difference in PD research regarding neuroprotection,” said Melissa Blechman, the Foundation’s vice president, in an email.
“We honor our Mom with the Blechman Foundation, but the foundation’s success is made possible because of the generosity of people who support our effort, like those who contribute to the Foundation’s Baseball Challenge each April,” said David Blechman.
To make a pledge for “Strikeout PD!” visit https://blechmanfoundation.org/ where you can also learn more about PD research and the successful studies the Blechman Foundation has funded.
Fund4Design and Art Education
Another Miami group that started small and is growing—artwork-by-artwork—is the Fund4Design and Art Education that was started by retired art teachers who wanted to make a difference in the lives of talented high school students.
Each year, a number of young South Florida artists are awarded scholarships to help with college. The Isaiah Scholarship winners for this year recently held a Sunday Salon to showcase, and sell, their work.
The artists are Andie Aylsworth, Carolina Zuniga, Christopher Abella, Cristy Rodriguez, Diago Leon, Eva Bibas, Frederick Rapp, Gabriel Chez, Jenny De La Cruz, Kate Ortega, Melissa Fernandez, Naelsy Young, Natasja Enriquez, Raejeann Harris, Ruth Suarez, Tony Bernardo, Yudiel Garcia and Yunru “Daisy” Chen.
Since 2013, the Fund has provided over $80,000 in scholarships. Generous benefactors can make a donation, and aspiring artists can apply for an Isaiah Scholarship, at www.fund4arted.org. As it says on the colorful website, “100 percent of your donation goes to help art kids.”
Free professional jazz concert
Young musicians and jazz aficionados will want to make plans to experience the Daniel Bennett Group. The New York Times calls its music “a mix of jazz, folk, and trance,” and the trio was voted Best New Jazz Group in New York City Hot House Magazine.
Daniel Bennett can be heard throughout the world performing his award-winning compositions on saxophone, flute, clarinet, and oboe. You’ll also hear renowned guitarist Nat Janoff and master percussionist Matthew Feick.
Performances will be at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Miami Beach Library, 227 22nd St.; and at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the West Kendall Library, 10201 Hammocks Blvd.
The concerts are free and open to the public.
The Daniel Bennett Group is celebrating the release of its newest album, “Sinking Houseboat Confusion,” (Manhattan Daylight Media). The group recently performed at the Blue Note Jazz Club in New York for the album’s release.
“Miami is a special place for us,” Bennett said in an email. “We were recently featured guests on WDNA Jazz Radio in Miami. We are excited to perform at the Miami Beach Library and West Kendall Library in March. Our concerts are upbeat and family-friendly. The music is a strange mix of jazz, avant-pop, and surf rock. Expect the unexpected!”
Learn more about the group and its other South Florida and U.S. tour dates at www.danielbennettgroup.com.
If you have news for this column, please send it to Christina Mayo at firstname.lastname@example.org.