Welcome to Baehr Challenge for Parkinson's Research

Baehr Challenge

Five million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease — a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder. In the United States, 60,000 new cases will be diagnosed this year alone.

There is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. But through your support of Team Fox, YOU can help change this.

Team Fox is the grassroots community fundraising program at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). MJFF accelerates high-impact science through smart risk taking and problem solving with a commitment to urgency and efficiency. I’m one of thousands of people around the globe who are turning their passions into Team Fox fundraisers to help them speed a cure for Parkinson’s. When you give today, 100 percent of Team Fox proceeds go straight to MJFF research programs.

The mission of the Baehr Challenge for Parkinson's Research is to create awareness regarding fitness as a treatment for Parkinson's disease while funding scientific research for better treatments and a cure.

If you would like to make a donation today and help improve the lives of people living with Parkinson's, please click the 'Donate' button on the top right.

Please read the articles below "My PD Journey" and "Is Baseball Exercise?" to find out about Brian Baehr.

Thank you for your support!

The Brian Baehr Family

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Please join us for the 13th Annual Oktoberfest for Parkinson's block party event from 5 PM to 9 PM on Saturday, October 21, 2017 at 5310 E. High Street, Phoenix, AZ 85254. Enjoy an evening of cultural cuisine, local craft ales, fine wines, live music, games, opportunity to win raffle baskets and grand prize. Proceeds to benefit Parkinson's research and local organizations that guide people living with Parkinson's and their families.

Go to baehrchallenge.org/oktoberfest to buy tickets.

Thanks for your support!

The Brian Baehr Family

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My PD Journey

My name is Brian Baehr. I'm 57 and I have Parkinson's.

In 2007, at the age of 47, I noticed a slight hand tremor and began to struggle with my hand writing. As I would write, my large, all-capital letters began to shrink leaving the last few words of each sentence illegible. I attributed it to stress (I had two sons in college and a third graduating high school) and the need for stronger reading glasses. I began to drop things that my wife handed me (why is she in such a hurry?) and found myself needing to focus to complete tasks that used to be automatic (I never was good at multi-tasking). I had no explanation for why my feet got heavy and my arms forgot to swing when I walked, so I scheduled an appointment with my family doctor.

I spent the next year being poked and prodded in the offices of several specialists who ruled out several diagnoses (brain tumor, MS, ALS), discovered and treated one disease (prostate cancer), and was told that I was not a likely candidate for Parkinson's Disease at age 47 with no family history of such. Ironically, it was my urologist who first said "the P word" suggesting Parkinson's disease due to recognizing similar symptoms in his own father who has PD. Soon thereafter I found my neurologist, Dr. Johan Samanta, who prescribed medication to treat my Parkinson's-like symptoms. Almost immediately I began to feel better. Then came the anger.

I was fit, youthful and athletic. I was going to be the 70 year old who shot his age in a round of golf, stole bases on a senior baseball league, or tried for a record in the 100 meter dash. Why me?

My pity party was short-lived, poorly attended, and interrupted by my childhood friend, Don. He and I were on the golf course, and I was sharing my concerns about the future. Will I be able to work long enough to have a good retirement? How much longer will I be capable of providing for my family? After sharing my concerns, Don stopped me and said "What are you worried about? You're lucky!" I looked at him and wondered where he was going. Don continued, "You're going to make millions working at Home Depot as a paint shaker!!!" So began my new and improved outlook.

I decided to focus on living. Fitness was always very important to our family; we were always active. I play baseball and golf; my wife and I play tennis. We would often hike and bike with our sons, and had a dirt-worn whiffle ball field in our back yard for many years. As they grew they participated in baseball, football, wrestling, rugby and lacrosse.

In 2009 our eldest son, Matt, was a certified personal trainer and studying Business and Kinesiology at Arizona State University. He told me he had been researching PD and suggested I increase my exercise. Matt provided much guidance focusing on developing core strength for balance and stretching to reduce rigidity. I added yoga, some weight training, and swimming. I began to feel even better. I make it a priority to exercise on a daily basis and tell everybody I can about the benefits of exercise.

In January of 2010, Matt was leading Spartan Boot Camps and wanted to get involved with the Michael J. Fox Foundation. He felt the MJFF was the leanest research-focused foundation. He informed his clients who helped promote a boot camp event dedicating the proceeds to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Of course my wife and I attended the event where I was instantly elevated to celebrity status among these young people, most of whom were in their twenties. I was truly moved by the kindness and generosity of these "kids" and gained a new perspective of "the entitlement generation."

Riding the wave of momentum, Matt and I decided to try and create a larger impact. The first Baehr Challenge Boot Camp was held in April of 2010 and cleared $10,000 (in charitable contributions, to benefit research, etc.) for the MJFF. Nearly 100 people joined us for a morning of fitness, education and awareness. My family, coworkers, employer, business relationships and friends were instrumental in our success.

Every year in April since 2010 we have hosted our annual Baehr Challenge obstacle course and fun run. Every year we have grow in participation, activities and funds raised for the MJFF.

Every year new families and organizations get invloved in the Baehr Challenge and help spread the word and help us create awareness. We are proud to be associated with those who raise awareness, provide care, and search for a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

I am grateful for my entire family, coworkers, doctors, and network of friends who provide so much support. Most importantly, I am grateful for my wife Kaye as I trek through this journey. Her sense of humor has kept me smiling and her “can do” attitude has held me up at points along the path when I otherwise might have faltered.

As my new friend Carl Ames says:

"I don’t wish Parkinson’s on anyone, but I wish everyone could have the opportunity to experience the things that I have experienced with Parkinson’s, and more importantly, experience the love, compassion and generosity coming from the wonderful family, friends, and strangers that I am able to experience these things with."

Perhaps the Baehr Challenge will play a role in assisting the Michael J. Fox Foundation to find a cure.

Perhaps, I could even open a Martini Bar!

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Is Baseball Exercise?
October 2012

Much has been proven supporting the benefits of exercise to those of us with Parkinson's and yet it seems to me that there is a lot more to learn. This week I discovered yet another amazing peculiarity about Parkinson’s!

Last year I wrote an article about my first few years with PD. Since then I’ve been looking for inspiration and although many positive things have happened to me, nothing jumped out until today.

Today I realized something..... I FEEL GREAT!!! How could that be? I have PD!

Each of us with PD learns through a process of elimination what makes us feel as good as possible. Our personal combination of pharmaceuticals and supplemental treatments such as acupuncture and massage and our individual sleeping, eating, and exercise habits obviously contribute to physical health. However, it is the socialization activities and our fervent passion for philanthropic or community involvement which provide the foundation for optimum mind-body wellness.

What I realized TODAY is this; playing baseball is VERY GOOD for me!

This week I have been participating in a men's baseball tournament here in Arizona. Each fall, teams from all over the country arrive with the desire to compete in a National tournament. Teams are assembled according to age (ranging from Old Enough To Know Better to Too Old To Care) and competition level (extremely competitive to extremely recreational). Each team plays one or two 9-inning games each day at Spring Training facilities in the Phoenix area. The experience builds new friendships and old muscles, and takes me back to my youth, when Parkinson’s was not even in my vocabulary, much less my body.

The amazing part is that I FEEL GOOD TODAY and I’m not sure if it’s in spite of the physical demands or because of them. There are urban legends of people with PD feeling miraculously better while climbing mountains, cycling long distances, dancing Zumba, and running marathons. Many of these people report feeling as good as they have since being diagnosed during and after their endeavors. For me, when I feel an increase in my symptoms, increasing my daily exercise typically helps.

Today, I FEEL GREAT! Do I need to be hit over the head with a baseball bat to realize the correlation? I've been playing baseball all week! Plus, I have been playing more baseball this year than I have in the past five years. For the past year I’ve played weekly, as opposed to a few games during three months of the year. Is baseball another layer of therapy for me? This does not seem consistent with some of the conventional wisdom about PD exercise therapy. Baseball is not extremely physically demanding. It is not aerobic or even very strenuous. Most PD therapists promote a strenuous, aerobic, core body and balance-challenging exercise regimen to treat PD.

Baseball movements are not particularly athletically difficult but they do require "transverse plane" movements, balance and subtle hand/eye movement coordination. Does baseball stimulate a motor skill familiarity or idiosyncrasies that have a neuro-protective benefit?

Does baseball have physiological and psychological benefits? Is it an elegant balance? Would baseball be good for anybody or is it just good for me for some inexplicable reason?

My friend and doctor of physical therapy, Tamara Hefferon, explains there is a connection. Parkinson’s disease affects motor skills as a result of a deterioration of the cell tissues. These cells assist in initiating, controlling and sustaining motor skill signals which originate from the basal ganglia portion of the brain. She shared with me that engaging in complex motor skills that have been learned over a lifetime help rehabilitate and/or stimulate the brain. The same part of the brain affecting movement, motor control, and balance involve the same chemicals affecting mood and well-being. Performing exercise that is meaningful, complex and familiar provides a challenge and positively affects your motor system. In addition, it also gives you an extra bonus by flooding your system with the feel good hormones. You are more engaged and happy performing something that you enjoy.

Is an “adrenalin rush” neuro-protective? The “adrenalin rush” has evolutionary roots triggering the physiological “fight or flight” response. To me, there is nothing like the rush I get while standing in the batter’s box. My first thought is that adrenalin can sometimes negatively amplify my symptoms. What I have learned is that situations in my life that can cause an “adrenalin rush” yield different reactions from my symptoms. I think the common denominator is familiarity. In situations where I am NOT specifically trained for or accustomed (public speaking or human confrontation) to, the rush can cause unwanted amplification of my symptoms. However, in situations where I have training, experience and/or familiarity, I find the “adrenalin rush” provides me with a positive feeling or a high. I FEEL GREAT!!

Four years ago my son Matt was the first to recognize that exercise might be good for me. At first I thought DUH!!! But his explanation was as follows: In addition to the obvious cardiovascular benefits, enhanced balance and mitigation of accelerated atrophy, rigorous exercise has shown to enhance your cells ability to handle stress, disease, and disorder. Rigorous exercise can create a rush of hormones such as Growth Hormone, Dopamine, and Testosterone. Exercise modulates the release of levodopa-induced growth hormone (St. Josef Hospital Dept. of Neurology, Muller et al 2007), and Growth Hormone has been proven to be beneficial in treating Parkinson's Disease as well as many other maladies due to its cellular-protective characteristics. Experimental hormone treatments have been proven to yield positive results in trials for Parkinson's patients (March 31 2003, Nature Medicine), and the positive hormonal benefits associated with prolonged or intense exercise could be the primary reason for vigorous exercise's long-proven, dramatic benefits to PD patients.

It appears that the “Use it or lose it” concept is also applicable to neuro-protection of the brain tissues affected by Parkinson’s.

I suspect that other sports and athletic skills such as tennis, swimming, ballroom dancing and golf may be difficult to learn after being diagnosed with PD. However, if a person with PD was skilled at those activities prior to being diagnosed there might be added benefits beyond regular exercise for the treatment of PD.

Regardless, I may never know why PD can keep me from walking without swinging my arms but it does not keep me from catching a hard hit ground ball. I may never know why PD can keep me from typing with all my fingers but it does not keep me from hitting a 70 MPH curve ball. But I do know that PD cannot keep me from enjoying life and feeling GOOD!

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$18,610
raised of $20,000 goal
 

8 Fundraisers

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Recent Donations

1. PP T Baehr
Keep it going! We're proud of the whole family! Uncle Ted
$100.00
2. TTed & Tori
3. JJJ
4. DBDarwin Beaird
This donation if from Marti and Joyce Scott. It was sent to me during the event that was held at "What the Hell bar and Grill, Mesa AZ. Thank you Jay Beaird
$50.00
5. DDiane Bright
$100.00
6. JJim Walton