Uptown resident and Parkinson’s patient raising funds for monumental Everest climb
By Delle Willett | SDUN Reporter
Bill Maddox’s mother had Alzheimer’s, osteoporosis and Parkinson’s disease. After her death from complications related to the diseases, Maddox noticed some shaking in his right hand and attributed it to the stress of losing his mother and from a start up company that went sideways.
But it was more than stress. And in 2006 at age 53 Maddox was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s.
Originally from Indiana, Maddox moved to Los Angeles in 1975 to attend the Art Center College of Design, where he earned his degree in advertising design.
He came to San Diego from L.A. in 1986 and worked for Phillips Ramsey, then one of the top two advertising agencies in San Diego. As art director for seven years, he worked on award-winning ad campaigns for the San Diego Zoo, the Del Mar Turf Club, WD40 and Giant Bicycles.
He then moved to the second big agency, Franklin and Associates, where for three years he was senior art director, working on the San Diego McDonalds’ regional, Padres, Thermoscan and Hungry Hunter Steakhouses accounts. He has worked as a freelance art director and designer since 1996.
Maddox, who lives in Midtown, works out to help manage the effects of Parkinson’s. He has a regular exercise program that includes yoga and running. He also enjoys his hobbies, which include fishing, music and photography.
Having Parkinson’s has affected his ability to work full time but it hasn’t kept him from volunteering a solid 20 hours a week as a very active volunteer at Summit4StemCell, using his professional design skills to create their print communications. A board member, he is currently helping to raise awareness and funds for an upcoming three-week fundraising trek to the base camp of Mt. Everest.
Maddox got involved in Summit when he met Sherrie Gould, his nurse practitioner at Scripps Clinic Movement Disorders Center and the architect of a recent Mt. Kilimanjaro climb, as well as the upcoming Mt. Everest trip.
The actual three-week trek, with an altitude of 17,598 feet, will take place this October. The training began with a kick off on April 6 and continues every other Saturday through July, and then every weekend through the first of October.
“The trek is focused on self empowerment as well as bringing essential funding and awareness to cutting-edge research that may lead to a viable long-term treatment for those afflicted with Parkinson’s disease,” Maddox said.
In 2011, some members of this group climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro – at 19,341 feet, the highest mountain in Africa – to raise money for Parkinson’s research. They raised $350,000. Sixteen climbers consisting of three men, each in their 50s with early to mid-stage Parkinson’s, and their support team of 13 summited the mountain. Thirteen of the climbers were from San Diego, two from L.A., and one from Canada.
“The goal of the trek is to draw attention and support to an amazing breakthrough in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease that could put the lives of those with Parkinson’s back on track: using stem cells created from a patient’s own skin,” Gould said.
Researchers can now turn simple skin cells into induced pluripotent stem cells, or iPSCs, that abandon the need for embryonic stem cells, thereby avoiding the ethical and political issues that have plagued stem cell research.
“We know the climb is a courageous act, but we want to inspire all who face seemingly insurmountable odds to rise above them and escape the limitations we all set for ourselves,” Gould said. “It’s time to not only meet this mountain, but to move it.”
Two local doctors are masterminds of this breakthrough research. Dr. Jeanne Loring, director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine at the Scripps Research Institute, is an internationally recognized authority in the field of stem cell research and has already generated and banked nearly a hundred iPSC lines. She is partnering with Dr. Melissa Houser, neurologist and director of the Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center at Scripps Clinic, in a research project that will involve eight of Houser’s Parkinson’s patients.
Maddox said the energetic Gould and her team of trekkers, who will pay all their own expenses, are seeking donations, large and small. All money raised will be used for this research as a long-term treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Fundraising is being done through a partnership with the Parkinson’s Association of San Diego.
“Inspired by a future free from the degenerative effects of the disease, the team is determined to raise $500,000 to fund this ground-breaking study to treat, and possibly conquer, Parkinson’s disease,” Maddox said.
Another important consideration is that this research is happening right now, right here in San Diego. And this is also considered a great opportunity for San Diego to share the fruits of its biotech community with the rest of the world.
As much as Maddox would love to do the $7,000 trek, he said he is not sure he can pull the funds together to pay for the trip. Maddox is seeking help online at crowdrise.com/billmaddox. Whether he goes or not, he’s doing everything he can to spread the word of the trek and encourage others to sign up.
Only people who have Parkinson’s disease or are closely connected to someone who does can participate in the Everest trip, and any climber with Parkinson’s needs to bring a buddy along with them on the trek. For questions about qualifying, email Gould at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit summit4stemcell.org.
There are an estimated 1.5 million Americans living with Parkinson’s and approximately 50,000 new cases diagnosed every year. This degenerative disease causes the brain to lose its ability to produce dopamine. The shortage of this critical neurotransmitter can cause a host of motor and non-motor function disorders that compromise balance, posture, walking, digestion and even the sense of smell.