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Dad's illness sparks Play for Parkinson's event in New Canaan

Published 10:52 am, Friday, February 22, 2013

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  • Barbara and Victor Calaba of New Canaan have organized for the second consecutive year Play for Parkinson's at the New Canaan Racquet Club. The event, which will take place  on Saturday, March 2, is to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Photo: Contributed
    Barbara and Victor Calaba of New Canaan have organized for the second consecutive year Play for Parkinson's at the New Canaan Racquet Club. The event, which will take place on Saturday, March 2, is to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Photo: Contributed

 

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Sometimes a bad thing can lead to something positive. In the case of Barbara and Victor Calaba, the illness that's faced her father for 10 years prompted the couple to take action to help find a cure.

On Saturday, March 2, the Calabas will host the second annual Play for Parkinson's event at the New Canaan Country Club. The party and tennis tourney will raise money for the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which seeks to take a few swings at finding a cure for the degenerative neurological disease that affects a new 60,000 people each year in this country alone.

"My dad was diagnosed over 10 years ago with Parkinson's disease," said Barbara Calaba, an avid tennis player who belongs to the club with her husband. "At the time, none of us really knew anything about it.

"We got in touch with the Michael J. Fox Foundation."

She said it offered them considerable help in not only understanding the disease, but learning some valuable steps to take in dealing with it. Team Fox, the grass-roots fundraising arm of the national organization, will sponsor the March 2 event.

Play for Parkinson's will match interested players in a round-robin tournament, led by Chuck Milot, head tennis professional at the club.

"It's for a good cause," he said. "Barbara and Victor are great customers of ours and they're active in the community."

The club's owner is donating its space for the evening. Many local merchants are also involved, donating refreshments and items for the party and a silent auction. Among the items on which people will be able to bid is a one-hour hitting session with tennis star John McEnroe in New York City.

Last year, the event raised $33,000, which was then matched by Sergey Brin, one of the founders of Google, whose family has also been touched by the disease.

For those who aren't interested in playing, the event will include a cocktail party with hors d'oeuvres and fine desserts. Attendants will also be privy to a great night of watching tennis at the facility.

"It's a mixture of players of several different levels," Milot said. "We do our best to arrange games so people are playing with people who are approximately at the same level."

Among the guests participating will be Beatriz "Gigi" Fernandez, the former women's doubles champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist.

"She's going to play in the event and be part of the party," Barbara Calaba said.

"It's a very fun evening," Victor Calaba said. "Last year was fun for everybody that was there."

He said the cause is "near and dear to our family, and we think that we can make an impact."

Barbara Calaba said that last year, after getting involved in the event, several of their friends and acquaintances came forward and acknowledged that their families had also been impacted by Parkinson's.

"We kind of had no idea," she said.

Thanks to the foundation, she said, she and her husband have learned a great deal about the disease and efforts to not only cure it, but assuage the debilitating symptoms of those who suffer from it.

"What makes them different," she said of the Michael J. Fox Foundation, "is that they really are working kind of to do a fast track to find a cure for the disease ... and also the work they're doing is applicable to other diseases, such as ALS (or Lou Gehrig's Disease), Alzheimers and multiple sclerosis."

For information or to participate in the event, contact Barbara Calaba at 917-603-2033 or visit www2.michaeljfox.org/goto/playforparkinsons.

Jarret Liotta is a freelance writer.