You may know Akbar Gbaja-Biamila as a former Charger and current host of “American Ninja Warrior”, but you may not know that he’s been an advocate for raising awareness about Parkinson’s disease; a disease that hits home.
That’s why on Sunday, August 5 in Thousand Oaks, Gbaja-Biamila is hosting Parkour 4 Parkinson’s, an interactive, fun-filled fundraiser to raise money for Parkinson’s research.
“You can be a football fan and enjoy it, you can be a fan of the show and enjoy it or you can just be a person looking to give to a good cause to help find a cure for Parkinson’s disease,” Gbaja-Biamila said of the event.
Gbaja-Biamila’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the late ‘90s. While he initially chose to keep the news private, he met Jimmy Choi, a contestant on “American Ninja Warrior” living with Parkinson’s who changed his perspective.
“I called my dad and was like, ‘Dad when this comes out, you’ve got it watch it. You’ve got to see it because it was inspiring,’” he said. “I (thought Choi) just probably inspired so many people with Parkinson’s, never mind the people who have family members who have Parkinson’s, but people with Parkinson’s, (that) they can go out and you can do an American Ninja Warrior course, which by the way is the hardest obstacle course in the world. So it made me start thinking what am I doing with my platform?”
From there, Gbaja-Biamila kicked off his mission to raise awareness of the disease. He instantly formed a bond with Choi, who happened to be a board member of the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Gbaja-Biamila joined the board and the wheels started turning to make Parkour for Parkinson’s a reality.
“I started thinking about ways that I could contribute and I just thought I could take the hottest show during the summer and turn it into a fundraising event. I didn’t want to do a fundraising event around celebrities. So many people raise money off of celebrity and I was like well, Ninja Warrior isn’t about that. It’s about community, it’s about family and I wanted to do an event that opened up to anyone and everyone, whoever wanted to try the course and maybe learn from the ninjas. They could just come out and just have fun at this big ol’ ninja party. I thought parkour, which is one of the baselines of learning how to do some of the ninja tricks. I thought why not do that, and I thought a play on words would be Parkour for Parkinson’s, and I thought, that’s it, we’re going to do it.”
Click here for more information and to sign up to be a part of Parkour for Parkinson’s.
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