Sunflower Revolution

The format has changed over the years, as have the people, the locations and the colors of the jerseys. But the mission of the Sunflower Revolution – to educate, raise awareness and fund Parkinson’s disease research – has never wavered. In 2013 organizers could proudly say the event “has legs,” as the Sunflower Revolution marked its 10th iteration with a free symposium for patients, family members and caregivers and a family-friendly Fitness Festival. The Fitness Festival benefitted the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, one of four institutes of the UC College of Medicine and UC Health.

“The Sunflower Revolution has been a vital part of our connection to the Parkinson’s community of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana,” says Fredy J. Revilla, MD, Medical Director of the Gardner Center and Associate Professor of Neurology. “All of us at the Gardner Center have made lifelong friends through this event, and we are honored to have given back to our patients and families through our contributions to research and education.”

Since its inception, the Sunflower Revolution has served nearly 4,000 patients and has raised more than $1.5 million.

The Sunflower Revolution was named and founded in 2004 by Kathleen Krumme, a Cincinnati cyclist and manager at Oakley Cycles whose father, the late Donald Krumme, suffered from Parkinson’s disease. The sunflower is a ubiquitous sight at the Tour de France, the world’s most famous cycling event, and it has long been viewed as a symbol of joy and hope.

John M. Tew, MD, Clinical Director of the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute, recalls the moment in 2003 when he was biking with Kathy on a road outside Newtown, Ohio, and Kathy first mentioned her desire to do something to benefit Parkinson’s research. “Kathy said to me, ‘Do you know anyone who knows something about Parkinson’s disease? I have a friend, and he wants to team up with an institution to help raise awareness. His name is Davis Phinney.’ ”

“Yes,” Dr. Tew replied. “I know an institution that would be a perfect match.”

A look back through Sunflower Revolution history

2004: Kathy Krumme brings Davis Phinney, the two-time Tour de France cyclist who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 40, to Cincinnati for the inaugural 100k bike ride and gala and helps him establish the Davis Phinney Foundation. More than 75 cyclists participate. Country music star Jo Dee Messina, right, performs an unforgettable set at the gala as a gift to Davis. An online raffle, conceived by David Ariosa of Oakley Cycles and  sponsored by Serotta Competition Bicycles and Shimano USA lifts the event well past break-even, and the result is a $100,000 gift to the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute’s blossoming Parkinson’s program.

2005: The morning after the 2004 event, Davis, Kathy and Cindy Starr (a UCNI contract employee) brainstorm about the possibility of adding an educational symposium for physicians and patients to the Sunflower event. The free event in 2005 marks the first such patient symposium at the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and serves as a model for other UCNI centers in years to come. Dr. Tew is honored for his role in launching the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute and its Parkinson’s center, and Kitty Strauss and her husband, Peter Strauss, are honored for their courage and commitment to people with Parkinson’s disease. Phil Liggett, the renowned cycling commentator, regales the gala audience with stories, and Melody Sawyer Richardson parlays an auction item into the Sunflower Encore dinner and musicale at her home.

2006: Ms. Richardson (above left) and Francie Schott Hiltz (center) serve as gala co-chairs and Local 12’s Cammy Dierking (right) is emcee. James Orr of Convergys serves as Corporate Steering Committee Chairman, and the event continues to build its educational symposium and bike rides. For their leadership in the search for a cure for Parkinson’s, business leader Thomas Petry and Local 12 news anchor Rob Brown receive the Every Victory Counts Award.

2007:  The Sunflower event adds a 10k ride, and Joseph Broderick, MD, UCNI’s Research Director, and Rob Braun are gala co-chairs. Robert Kohlhepp of Cintas chairs the corporate steering committee, and Jim and Cathy Orr are honorary chairs. Sunflower funds, donated through the Davis Phinney Foundation, support four major Parkinson’s research projects totaling $180,000. The Parkinson’s center is endowed with a $5.5 million gift and a new name: the James J. and Joan A. Gardner Family Center for Parkinson’s disease and Movement Disorders.

2008: Honorees are Linda and Bob Kohlhepp and Joan and Dave Szkutak, and Ambassador and future U.S. Senator Rob Portman (above with Dr. Tew) graces our ride again. Reflecting on his favorite Sunflower memories, Dr. Broderick recalls “the colorful jerseys, the excitement of a beautiful late summer morning, Davis’s terrific enthusiasm, and my son and his best friend participating in their first cycling event.”

2009: Sunflower adopts a new slogan: Move to Live, Live to Move … Christa McAlpin, an events specialist for the Mayfield Clinic, reflects on a favorite Sunflower memory. “My 30th birthday fell on the Sunflower Symposium day [pictured above] in 2009,” she says. “Everyone who worked on the program signed a birthday card and celebrated with me after the symposium ended. That’s memorable to me, but even more importantly, I have enjoyed watching this symposium and fundraising event grow over the years. I started working on the symposium in 2006 and have learned so much about the PD community since then and have met so many amazing people. It’s a caring community, and I think that is what helps make this such a popular event each year. I am proud to be a part of it all!”

2010: Kathy Krumme (above with Sunflower supporter Buck Niehoff) is the winner in the community outreach category at the Cincinnati Business Courier’s annual Health Care Heroes awards. In nominating her, Dr. Tew writes: “The Sunflower Revolution owes its existence to Kathy, who had an idea, took a financial risk and ignited a cause … With a small amount of seed money, Kathy plunged in, signing a hotel contract and praying that she would bring in enough donors to pay for the inaugural Sunflower Revolution dinner and bike ride.” … The 2010 ride and a new 5k walk draw 900 participants. Ron Carson and his wife, Penny, are honorary event chairs, and Jerry Wuest of Lawrenceburg, Ind., is honored with the Victory award. Jerry and his wife, Sandy, in conjunction with the Parkinson’s Disease Support Network of Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana, have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to UC over the years in support of Parkinson’s research.

2011: The Sunflower bike ride takes a year’s sabbatical to re-organize and re-energize. The Sunflower Symposium continues, however, bringing in hundreds of patients and family members to learn about new research and living well with Parkinson’s disease. Carol Simons, above with Dr. Revilla, is honored with the Victory Award.

2012:Linda Armstrong, above center, a longtime advocate for people with Parkinson’s disease, is honored with the Victory Award. Ms. Armstrong, an Aurora, Ind., resident who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2000 at age 54, is active in support groups, fund-raising and advocacy. She is the creator of beautiful necklaces, bracelets and sea glass pins, which she sells under the title, “Beading for a Parkinson’s Cure.” All proceeds benefit the Gardner Center … Kathy Krumme rides the 40k with a young boy who rides in support of a friend and a friend’s father, who has Parkinson’s.

2013: The Sunflower Revolution returns in a new format that includes cycling and fitness events. Pete Hershberger is honored with the Victory Award.

Sunflower Honorees

2013 Pete Hershberger
2012 Linda Armstrong
2011 Carol Simons
2010 Jerry Wuest; Ron and Penny Carson
2009 Florence & Ron Koetters; Barb and Dale Ankenman
2008 Linda and Bob Kohlhepp; Joan and Dave Szkutak
2007 Kathy Krumme
2006 Rob Braun; Tom Petry
2005 John M. Tew, MD; Kitty & Peter Strauss