First he kept the news private, but now a Long Island man has told family and friends -- and the world -- he not only has Parkinson's disease but is taking steps to fight it.
Bret Parker, 44, of Sag Harbor, accompanied runner Sam Fox, 25, on a portion of a 100-mile run from midtown Manhattan to Southampton. The run was part of a charity event hosted by the Michael J. Fox Foundation to raise awareness of the debilitating progressive movement disorder with no known cure. Sam Fox is not related to actor Michael J. Fox.
"When Sam said he'd be running to Southampton and literally finishing in my backyard, how could I not run part of it?" Parker said. He said he had run the New York City Marathon in 2010, but did not run it for Parkinson's and regretted that.
Parker joined the last leg of Fox's course with him, from Shinnecock Park to Sebonack Golf Club. Though he was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson's 5 1/2 years ago, he only went public six months ago. Since then, he has become more involved as an advocate.
"A lot of people ask me, 'What's your connection to Parkinson's?' And I say I have it, and they're surprised," he said. "Running with Sam has been really humbling. It's a reminder to live every minute."
Fox ran through a lightning storm Sunday night and Monday's heat to complete the course from Times Square to the golf club and raise money and awareness for the fight to cure Parkinson's. His mother has the disease.
Every year, the foundation hosts a golf charity event, and this year Fox decided he would run the 100 miles to the event from the foundation's offices in Manhattan.
Fox, who grew up in Providence, R.I., began his course at 3 a.m. Sunday and ran for 80 miles straight before taking a break Sunday night and beginning again early Monday morning. Different members from the team ran with him along the way and provided support and water. In a quiet finish Monday afternoon, Fox and five other team members arrived at the golf course in the sweltering midday heat.
For Parker, the run had a personal challenge. "I like running because it's a time for me to feel like I'm literally out there kicking this disease's --," he said.