The event’s master of ceremonies will be Willie Geist, host of NBC News’ “Sunday Today with Willie Geist,” and co-host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” who also hosted last year. Geist’s father, Bill, also a veteran television broadcaster, has Parkinson’s.
Featuring a cocktail reception, a live auction, dinner and dancing, the event brings together national leaders in Parkinson’s care, philanthropy, scientific study, business and media. It also will honor corporate leader Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, and Edward G. Rendell, former Pennsylvania governor and former Philadelphia mayor. Rendell announced in 2018 that he has Parkinson’s.
“Receiving expert care from a Parkinson’s specialist has made all the difference in my experience living with the disease,” Rendell said in a press release emailed to Parkinson’s News Today. “I am humbled that the Parkinson’s Foundation would recognize me as an advocate for advancing research, and I am thrilled to join leaders of this community at the Foundation’s gala this year.”
The event, to be held at Cipriani in New York City, is the largest fundraiser of the year for the foundation, which is aimed at advancing research and care for Parkinson’s disease patients, and ultimately finding a cure. Members of the host committee are Karen Elizabeth Burke, MD, PhD; Dick and Sky Field; Devon and Mike Pastor; Arlene Levine; Isobel Robins Konecky; and Stephanie Goldman Rosen.
“The Parkinson’s Foundation is especially excited about this year’s gala as a culmination of the many milestones achieved since our last gathering, such as the launch of our Genetics Initiative,” said John Lehr, the foundation’s president and CEO.
The Genetics Initiative is the first national study to offer free genetic testing, with counseling, for Parkinson’s-related genes. The goal is to track, by next year, the genetic makeup of 15,000 individuals with Parkinson’s across roughly 50 U.S. sites. Genetic testing, which often is not covered by health insurance, may help improve care and identify prospective patients for enrollment in clinical trials.
Since 1957, the foundation has invested more than $330 million in Parkinson’s research and clinical care. According to the foundation, 60,000 U.S. residents are diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disorder each year.