Our History

Although Parkinson’s disease  has affected people around the world for decades, Jewish Hospital founded the original Parkinson Disease Support Group in Louisville in the early 1990s.   This was the first organized attempt to reach the Louisville PD community, and it was the only public gathering place to receive information about the disease–a disease that most people attributed to old age.

In attendance at these original support groups were Gayle and Chet Zoeller, C.D. and Jane Lucas, Jack and Shirley Baach, Montgomery Shircliffe, Becky and Joe Richardson and Robert and Joan Goodknight.

Around the same time, Gayle and the original support group at Jewish Hospital learned of the Parkinson Alliance and the Tuchman Foundation, and were attracted to their fundraising philosophy.  Here, they discovered a way to help raise money so that people in the Louisville area could take advantage of sorely needed educational material, medical advice, and were involved in how to increase awareness of PD so that people knew they weren’t alone with this disease

The group contacted key local political and corporate figures to discuss some sponsorship opportunities to raise money for PD in Louisville. Matched funds could go a long way, and the Tuchman Foundation and Parkinson Alliance were willing to help plan a glamorous event during the Kentucky Derby celebration to kick off this effort.

Former Sec. of Labor, Elaine Chao, Senator Mitch McConnell (speaking), Dr. Clifford Kuhn and Gayle Zoeller at the 2004 Gala.

It was hoped that a combination of efforts might lead to finding a way to raise money and reach the community to tell the story of PD, the one disease that has been deemed curable by the National Institutes of Health, but only lacks adequate funding to achieve this goal.

This was the reason why the Parkinson Derby Eve Gala was born. People with Parkinson’s and their care partners joined together to create a powerful noise in the community that ushered in a new era in educating the public that Parkinson’s disease can affect anyone at any age.  After much hard work and planning, the first Derby Eve Gala raised $30,000, matched by the Tuchman Foundation for another $30,000.

That money went to develop two seed grants by scientists trying to find a cure for PD.  The publicity surrounding this grassroots extravaganza created such a stir that the decision was made to continue this fundraising event each year.  Each Gala outgrew the next and to this day, the annual galas help to fund the operations of the organization.

In 1999 the non-profit, 501(c)(3) Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana was started by Judy Spencer and a strong group of support group members.  These people included the Gala committee, as well as Montgomery Shircliffe and C.D. Lucas, Jr.  At that time, the Center’s office was Judy Spencer’s dining room table.  Judy spent countless hours initiating contacts, making phone calls and running a one-woman office.

She accomplished an amazing amount of work dedicated to patient care, but after a short time, it was evident a brick and mortar Parkinson Support Center was necessary to continue the good work.  Judy arranged for donated office space at the Atria on Hubbards Lane. It was  filled by committed volunteers with a strong dedication to building a Parkinson community that could help each other.  A core group of people built this organization as a grassroots effort, and each individual contributed immeasurably in raising contributions from corporations and individuals.

In 2003, the Center moved to the Jewish Hospital Neuroscience Center on Brownsboro Road.  A small staff was in place.  In 2007, the Center raised $2,000,000 for local and regional research, including matched funds from Kentucky’s Bucks for Brains Program.  The growth of the Parkinson Support Center increased 3000% in 2009 when people were made more aware of our efforts through the media and external publications.

In 2010, the Center received a donation from Barbara M. Nichols and JD Nichols that was used to purchase an office suite at 315 Townepark Circle in Middletown.  Their gracious donation, the Nichols Parkinson Center, now allows meetings to be held in our facility and a resource library to be built to help the over 8,000 people diagnosed with PD in Louisville, and 14,000 in the Commonwealth.

If you are interested in learning more about the Parkinson Support Center, please contact us to receive a copy of our annual report.