A Passion for Fashion — and Fundraising

While many who join Team Fox run marathons and scale peaks to raise funds for Parkinson’s research, other members across the globe find imaginative, resourceful ways to turn their passions into opportunities to help advance a cure.

Husband and wife team Tonya and Chad Walker are two such Team Fox members. Together, they’ve created events that tie together Tonya’s love for fashion with education about the need for a cure for Parkinson’s disease (PD) – and have raised $35,000 for The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF) in less than three years.

But they weren’t always so involved. Tonya was only 34 when she was diagnosed. Like many with young-onset Parkinson’s disease, at first she lived in secrecy. But after five years of living with PD, her symptoms and treatment evolved — and so did her outlook. The Orlando, Florida-based couple went from complete denial to total immersion.

They began with a blog. And today, their online endeavor, The Shoe Maven, focuses on footwear and fashion but ties everything back to life with Parkinson’s and MJFF.

Tonya and Chad then brought this passion back offline, founding the Art of Fashion Show, featuring styles from local boutiques and hosted by a local art gallery. The event became such a success that it’s now held annually — raising $7,000 this spring for MJFF’s programs to speed a cure.

Additional collaborations followed. Their hometown Bloomingdales signed up as a partner for their “Heels On Heads Up” social media campaign, which combined insights about living with PD with some stylish shoes. The store then hosted an MJFF benefit and a two-week curated pop-up shop. The Walkers also formed a second partnership with Lilly Pulitzer, where Tonya flew to New York to style outfits, shoot some looks and roll out their Shop and Share event for Team Fox.

As relative newcomers to the fundraising game, Tonya and Chad share their advice for anyone looking for innovative ways to take part: Start small and tie your fundraising into something you love — be that biking, cooking, gardening or anything else. And always network.

“We talk with others about our work with MJFF all the time,” says Chad. “I’m amazed at how many times it turns into a discussion about someone the other person knows. When you share, you suddenly find connections.”

This fall, Tonya will be kicking off her heels and strapping on running shoes when she and Chad participate in the 2017 TCS New York City Marathon — another first for the couple. And they love sharing their commitment to a cure with their fellow Team Fox members and supporters. “Doing this work, living with Parkinson’s, I can honestly say it’s made me a better person,” says Tonya. “So many people are making an incredible difference.”

Interested in transforming your personal passion into an opportunity to speed a cure? Join Team Fox today.

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Laura Amann is an award-winning freelance writer who contributes personal stories about living with Parkinson’s to the MJFF blog

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