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Ridgefield Teen Closes In On $100K Goal To Fight Parkinson's Disease

Zoe Butchen, right, of Ridgefield, with her father Jeff, is closing in on her goal of reaching $100,000 for Parkinson's Disease and the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Photo Credit: Contributed
Video Credit: Hooplaha video

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- Ridgefield teenager Zoe Butchen is closing in on her ambitious goal to fight Parkinson’s Disease. With help from the community, she could reach her objective this month, which is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.

Butchen, 15, set a goal of $100,000 in 2014 to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Her “Dance, Shake and Donate” campaign has raised nearly $80,000 for the Foundation, which is named after the actor. Since 2000, the Foundation has funded more than $450 million to speed a cure for the disease.

Butchen’s campaign started in November of 2014. He father, Jeff, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2013. She created a “Shake It Off” dance on Main Street in Ridgefield. Since that first event, Butchen and her family have hosted a number of other fundraising events, including the second “Shake It Off” dance last November in Ridgefield, which drew in more than 1,000 dancers. Butchen draws on Taylor Swift’s hit of the same name to help her cause.

“I wanted to see if I could do something to make a difference for my dad and other people living with the disease,’’ Zoe said in an article in Forbes magazine. Our family joke has been for dad to 'shake it off.' So, when the song from Taylor Swift came out and I watched the video of all the people dancing and shaking, I thought that it could be the perfect idea to raise money and awareness for Parkinson’s research.”

Butchen has been dancing since she was 3 years old. She has been recognized by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for her support, and has also been featured in a number of media outlets. Zoe talked about the family’s reaction to her father’s diagnosis in a HooplaHa video:

“When we first found out, it was really shocking. We didn’t think anything was wrong. In the end, we knew it was all going to be OK.”

Jeff’s hand tremors have escalated over time. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, and symptoms are movement related. There is no known cure, but there are medications that can help manage symptoms. In 2013, nearly 53 million people had been diagnosed with PD.

For more information on the “Dance, Shake and Donate” campaign, click here to visit the website. You can also support Zoe’s fundraising efforts by visiting the Michael J. Fox Foundation.

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