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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Back to….A Future Without Parkinson’s

In 2002, when I moved to Teaneck from Albany, NY, I was apprehensive. But I put on a happy face and in short order found I had more invitations for Shabbat lunches and dinners than I had ever imagined possible. My friends here are down to earth and unselfish, a fact that changed my stereotyped notions of New York Jews. With the exception of not being able to make left turns, and the Sunday Blue Laws, I liked it here from the start.

Then in 2007, my world was turned upside down when my 54-year-old husband, Lou, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and was forced to retire from his career as a general surgeon. We didn’t have the income we once had and suddenly he had a tremor that other people might find upsetting or frightening. I worried that our friends might shy away from us. But, the opposite was true. Friends and total strangers helped us put together a golf outing called “Pars for Parkinson’s”. Our friends called in favors, grilled hotdogs, pounded the pavement, wrote checks, carried heavy boxes, stood in the heat and the rain and ultimately raised over $200,000 for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF). Lou and I were uplifted and strengthened by living in such a caring community.

But recently, something else happened to us that made me realize what a special place Teaneck is. This year, Lou and I felt that we didn’t want to undertake the golf outing again. The wear and tear on our volunteers was just too great. We still wanted to do something to raise money for the Foundation, but we wanted to do something closer to home that was far less labor intensive. The MJFF suggested that we tie an event into the 30th anniversary of the release of Back to the Future (BTTF). Without hesitation, we contacted Matthew “Matt” Latten from the Teaneck Cinemas, and within two minutes he became involved.

Matt is a dreamer. He took an old run-down movie theater in the heart of our town and restored it to its former glory. On Saturday nights, and every night, it’s the place to see first-run movies at a great price and share popcorn with your honey. Every time I walk through the doors of the Cedar Lane Cinema, it reminds me of the movie theaters of my childhood. It has all the charm of a bygone era with all the modern amenities of a 21st century theater. Matt is not one of those people who has to “daven” over an idea—if he hears a good one, for a good cause, he jumps on it. Matt offered to provide us with four theaters on Sunday, October 18, 2015, where we can show Back to the Future, and on his smallest screen—for the smallest movie buffs—Stuart Little, played by none other than Michael J. Fox. Matt’s vision isn’t just about showing a film, it’s about creating an event, with T-shirt, raffle prizes, costumes, Doc Brown and Marty McFly impersonators, and a Delorean parked outside. He understands what we’ve known for a long time: great things can happen in Teaneck.

Following Matt’s lead, Holy Name Medical Center has jumped on the bandwagon to find a cure by donating event space at the hospital for a donor’s luncheon following the showing of the movie. Dr. Michael Maron, CEO, who put his stamp of approval on Holy Name’s involvement, calls this an “important cause.”

We are now working closely with Jack Wasserman of Fairway Supermarket about Fairway’s plan to donate the food for the luncheon. Louis Wulwick of KindaCreative Designs of River Edge donated his expertise as a graphic artist to make us our fantastic new logo. Characters for Hire in Manhattan is sending us McFly and Doc impersonators gratis. Bischoff’s on Cedar Lane will have a Back to the Future sundae and donate a portion of the proceeds to the Foundation. Smokey Joe’s, Joe Godin, is working on a secret recipe for a special burger in honor on the event. Lark Street Music, Maadan, Chopstix, The Teaneck General Store, and Sushi Metzuyan are some of our earliest supporters. I think as the date gets closer to October, the whole town will be involved in some way!

Parkinson’s disease affects over six million people worldwide. It is progressive, and incurable. Both Matt and our committee want to bring the community together to find help find the cure. The MJFF is doing cutting-edge research into this cruel and insidious enemy and they are committed to finding a cure and closing their doors.

So, when Matt was approached by Universal Studios about showing a Back to the Future marathon on Tuesday, October 21, 2015—the actual date that McFly and Doc traveled to in the Back to the Future II, Matt agreed with one caveat. All the proceeds from that Tuesday’s movie marathon will ALSO benefit the MJFF. When he called to tell me about his plan, I was speechless. Every time I speak to Matt, he has some new and wonderful surprise for—it’s like my birthday every day.

What I’ve learned from living here for over a decade is that big city people have small town hearts. And I’m sure that on October 18 and 21, 2015, we will be surrounded by a huge number of people who hope, as we do, that Parkinson’s disease will be eradicated in our lifetime.

By Debby Biskin Flancbaum

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