Monday, August 2, 2010

BGrant Still Fighting Biggest Battle

Brian T. Smith for The Columbian (WA):
Blazers new and old show support for Grant, Parkinson's

August 1, 2010

PORTLAND — NBA legends Bill Walton and Bill Russell walked side by side, brushing tall shoulders and trading large smiles. Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler and Pat Riley strode down a bright-red carpet, engulfed by television lights, cameras and microphones. Meanwhile, the Portland Trail Blazers’ Brandon Roy and Greg Oden spoke with modesty and reverence.
All carried big names and major star power Sunday evening at the Rose Garden. But none overshadowed ex-Blazer [and ex-Heat] forward Brian Grant.

Grant’s battle with Parkinson’s disease was the centerpiece of Shake It Till We Make It -- a [celebrity gala]  fundraiser that benefited the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research [and several related foundations partnered with Team Fox]. As everyone from Walton to Roy made their way into the sold-out event, Grant’s ongoing effort to raise awareness about his illness drew words of praise and respect from current and former NBA stars who went out of their way to attend the benefit.

“Brian Grant has always stood for a hope and for a better tomorrow,” said Walton, who played center for the Blazers from 1974-78. “Now that he’s facing the biggest battle of his life, if we don’t stand tall for him, what kind of people are we? I’m proud, honored, privileged and lucky to be here tonight.” Walton was also in awe. His two biggest idols when he was growing up were Russell and Muhammad Ali. Sunday, Walton had the opportunity to be in the same room as both. “I got to meet my heros. ... And they turned about to be better than I ever dreamed about,” Walton said. “That’s the kind of person Brian Grant is. I knew him as a player; I know him as a person. And he’s one of those truly unique souls. It’s never about him. It’s always about the dreams of others.”

Grant, who played for the Blazers from 1997-2000, said Portland “deserved” the debut of the fundraising event. His main goal was to let as many people as possible know that he, Fox and Ali are Parkinson’s survivors. And by having current Blazers such as Roy and Oden show up after just a single phone call, Grant felt Rip City’s full-circle pull. “I’ve got a great deal of respect for them for taking it out of their time,” Grant said. “This is their summer time. I know how my summers used to be. I was like, ‘Man, I don’t want to (do anything).’ But they’re here, and I’m very proud of them for that.”

Roy did not even require a call from Grant. The Blazers guard said he was already aware of the event before Grant reached out. But Roy did have one small stipulation: Walking a red carpet and participating in the fundraiser was no problem. Playing golf today at Pumpkin Ridge in North Plains, Ore.? The Natural is not a natural on the greens. “I’m happy to be part of the young Blazers and show our support to him and everybody that has this,” Roy said.

Portland executives Larry Miller and Sarah Mensah also walked before the cameras, as did ex-Blazers Terry Porter, Jerome Kersey and Rasheed Wallace. “For people to come out and support Brian the way they have is just really amazing, and a testament to the kind of person that he is,” Miller said.

Mike Tokito for The Oregonian:

Friends quick to enlist in Brian Grant's battle against Parkinson's disease

July 29, 2010

Lauren Forman remembers the day she and Brian Grant were sitting in Cafe DuBerry, discussing plans for an event to raise money to battle Parkinson's disease. Grant wanted one of his former NBA coaches, Pat Riley, to be the event's keynote speaker. So they called Riley. "Within seconds [Riley's] like, 'Brian, whatever you need, I'm there -- send me the info,'" said Forman, executive director of the Brian Grant Foundation.

That sort of personal response to Grant, the highly-respected former Trail Blazers forward who is one of an estimated 1 million people in the United States with Parkinson's, explains the impressive guest list for "Shake It Till We Make It." The two-day event starts Sunday with a dinner, meet-and-greet and auction at the Rose Garden, and concludes Monday with a golf event at Pumpkin Ridge.

The two celebrities most linked to Parkinson's will be there -- boxing great Muhammad Ali, and actor Michael J. Fox, whose foundation will be the beneficiary. Also slated to appear are Bill Russell, Bill Walton, Brandon Roy, Charles Barkley, Clyde Drexler, Greg Oden, Steve Nash, Terry Porter and Rasheed Wallace. "These guys are all flying in on their own dime," Forman said. "They're coming in because they care about him."

Grant, 38, played 12 seasons in the NBA before retiring in 2006. During his three seasons in Portland, he and Forman formed the Brian Grant Foundation to assist seriously ill children and their families, as well as underprivileged youth. After Grant left Portland to sign with Riley and the Heat in 2000, he and Forman tried to keep the foundation running but found support sparse in Miami, and the foundation closed up.

After Grant retired, he found himself fighting depression and started suffering hand tremors. In January 2009, Grant, then 36, received the shocking diagnosis that he had Parkinson's, a brain disorder that slowly saps a person's ability to control his movements. Parkinson's typically affects patients 60 or older, but there has been a spike in early onset Parkinson's.

After dealing with the shock and emotional fallout, Grant went public, doing numerous interviews to help make the public aware of the disease, essentially following in the footsteps of Fox and Ali, who both reached out to him.

Grant discovered there might be a specific role for him as public voice and face of Parkinson's. Fox's foundation is focused on finding a cure; and Ali's foundation is focused on caring for patients in advanced stages of the disease. "There was really a need for someone to be in the middle, who could reach out to people who were early-diagnosed with the disease," Forman said. "He really realized that he had a voice, and there were a lot of people interested in him becoming a spokesperson for outreach and education."

Grant has traveled the country to attend fundraisers and to serve as a spokesman. He and Forman also decided to resurrect the foundation, this time as the Brian Grant Foundation for Parkinson's Outreach and Education. "The fact that it happened to me, with this platform I've been given, means I'm supposed to get out there," Grant said in an interview last summer.

The foundation's initial aim was a small, one-time fundraiser, but that morphed into a star-studded event that will be held annually. Grant got use of Pumpkin Ridge's private Witch Hollow course through a friendship with one of the facility's founders, Barney Hyde, who also is fighting Parkinson's.

Forman believes the fundraiser -- both events are sold out -- will meet its goal of raising $300,000. By prior agreement, this year's proceeds will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Among the Fox beneficiaries is the Parkinson Center of Oregon at Oregon Health & Science University, where Grant is treated. Future events might disburse funds differently.