UNMC Skate-a-thon for Parkinson’s brings in more than $20,000

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OMAHA, Neb. -- Thanks to unseasonably nice January weather, more than 600 skaters turned out for 8th annual UNMC Skate-a-thon for Parkinson’s, as the 24-hour skating event concluded at 2 p.m. Saturday afternoon at the UNMC Ice Rink.

This marked the fourth consecutive year the event has topped 500 skaters, and the second straight year it has exceeded the 600 mark.

The event is held in memory of event founder Colleen Wuebben, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2005 at the age of 52 and died in 2013 at the age of 60.

Jenny Knutson, daughter of Ted and Colleen Wuebben and one of the event coordinators,
said preliminary estimates are that the event will top the $20,000 mark. She said online proceeds, pledges for skaters, and corporate sponsorships are yet to be processed.

Over the past eight years, the UNMC Skate-a-thon for Parkinson’s has netted more than $190,000 in proceeds.

Proceeds go toward clinical and basic science Parkinson's research at UNMC as well as Parkinson’s Nebraska, an organization started by the Wuebben family to provide affordable exercise, education and services to improve quality of life for persons with Parkinson's.

“The weather was phenomenal,” Knutson said. “It was obvious that everyone had a great time.”

Five skaters – Chris Rush, Jim Janicki, Geoff Morris, Oscar Knutson and Ryan Cary – skated all 24 hours. This marked the fifth consecutive year that Rush has skated all 24 hours and the second straight year for Janicki. Gavin Ingram earned honorable mention recognition. In skating all 24 hours, it is estimated that each of the marathon skaters logged more than 16 miles.

The top two Rock the Clock teams were LeaseTeam, Inc. (headed by Ryan Cary) and the Creighton Prep Hockey Team. Cross Fit Hydro earned honorable mention recognition.

UNMC physicians – John Bertoni, M.D., Ph.D., and Howard Gendelman, M.D. – spoke at the opening ceremonies, while Danish Bhatti, M.D., participated in the closing ceremonies.

Malorie Maddox, co-anchor for the WOWT (Ch. 6) evening newscasts, was the emcee for the opening ceremonies. Montez, on-air personality from 2-7 p.m. weekdays on KISS-FM (96.1), emceed the closing ceremonies. He is a member of the Parkinson’s Nebraska board.

Sponsors this year included: Heritage Communities, Abbvie Biopharmaceuticals, Hillcrest Health Services, Anderson Convenience Market, Masimore, Magnuson and Associates, P.C., LeaseTeam Omaha, TD Ameritrade, Baer Foundation and Life Care Center of Elkhorn.

Stepping up for the cause

Ryan Cary embodies what the UNMC Skate-a-thon for Parkinson’s is all about.

After skating in last year’s skate-a-thon, he realized how much fun the event was.

With his 69-year-old father, Stephen, suffering from Parkinson’s disease for the past 12 years, he had extra motivation to be involved. Stephen Cary was president of the apartment leasing division for NP Dodge before he retired.

Cary, 32, recruited a team of 40 skaters for his LeaseTeam, Inc. (LTI) and raised more than $2,600 in donations. LTI is a software development company, and Cary is a tele-acquisition lead for the company, handling much of the firm’s outreach activities. The LTI team competed in the Rock the Clock category with at least one member of the team on the ice throughout the 24-hour skate-a-thon.

As the skate-a-thon wound down, Cary’s parents – Stephen and Jeanne Cary – both stopped by to root on Ryan. They also were able to visit with one of Stephen’s neurologists, Danish Bhatti, M.D.

“People ask, ‘Why would you skate for 24 hours?’ Cary said. “I did it to show what you can accomplish if you just try. There are things my dad can’t do with his Parkinson’s, but I’m hoping this will maybe show him that there are things he can do.”

Jeanne Cary, a nurse for CHI, said the 24-hour format is also reflective of Parkinson’s disease. “You have to deal with it 24 hours a day,” she said.