Pancakes for Parkinson’s: ​13 Years of Flipping for a Cure

Photo courtesy
Photo courtesy

Saturday morning marks Pancakes for Parkinson’s 13th annual charity event on the South Lawn.  All of the money raised will fund the Michael J. Fox Foundation and research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease, a lasting condition debilitating the nervous system.  Though the event has been a staple at UVa for what seems like forever and attendance is even on the “117 Things to Do Before You Graduate UVa,” not many know that the nationally recognized event was the brainchild of none other than a UVa student in 2004.

Fourth year co-chair Katie Aichholz, in her last Pancakes for Parkinson’s as a student, tells the story of the event.

“The first Pancakes for Parkinson’s throughout the nation was at the University of Virginia,” Aichholz said, “It was started by a girl named Mary McNaught [who] wrote in her application [to UVa] that if she got in, that it would be her goal to put on this event.”

According to Aichholz, in her years of flipping pancakes by herself on the lawn, McNaught made over $64,000 benefitting Parkinson’s disease. By 2007, the UVa Pancakes for Parkinson’s was formally recognized by the Michael J. Fox Foundation as the first to be branded as a “Team Fox” event.

This year, the event’s theme focuses on the election year, urging students to choose between pancake toppings, such as blueberry and chocolate chip. “Pancake Nation,” Aichholz said, can unite the UVa and Charlottesville community.

“We chose the team mainly because it is something that everyone can relate to,” Aichholz said, “We thought it would be really fun to get more of a competition between the flavors of the pancakes.”

Fourth year Marketing and Merchandize co-chair Walker Peterson heads much of the advertising around the university and t-shirt sales.  All of the money raised by selling t-shirts goes to the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

“This year’s election has absorbed so much of the public’s attention that it seemed like a no-brainer,” Peterson said. “This election year is so certain to be a memorable one, and it would be something that everyone was engaged in, so why not use some of the lighter, more well-liked aspects of it for a good cause?”

Fourth year co-logistics chair, Anna Ewing, works with her committee to secure all of the materials necessary to make the event happen, from griddles to cups to decorations.  She, along with co-logistics chair Morgan George, has been reaching out to local businesses and companies to get donations since mid-July.

“We are getting 450 pounds of pancake batter donated by one of our greatest sponsors, Trader Joe’s,” Ewing said, “They’re also donating 550 oz of chocolate chips, 50 gallons of orange juice, and samples of cookie butter. They will deliver these goods the morning of the event.”

Tomorrow morning, all of the committees will be awake before the sun rises setting up on the lawn.  Ewing says she might “be in the minority,” but her favorite part of the day is waking up early.

“There is something special about being on the lawn at 4 am ready for a full day of excitement ahead,” Ewing said. “There’s a real camaraderie in the set-up process.”

There will be over 300 volunteers working the event on Saturday.  The event is always held during Homecomings Weekend to bring current and past Hoos together for a cause.

“UVa has adopted Pancakes for Parkinson’s as a tradition,” Aichholz said,  “there has been such a welcoming from the UVa community andalso from the administration, faculty and the Charlottesville community.”

The event will be held on the South Lawn from 9 am to 2 pm.  All are welcome to enjoy free pancakes.


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