Alumni Profiles

On the Road to Cure Parkinson's

Matt Drayton's worst fear after graduation was that he would leave the exciting university atmosphere and atrophy into "one of the masses." At UNH, Drayton '98 had been a disciplined athlete and scholar, playing football and staying active as an outdoor education major. But now he needed a new challenge that would give deeper meaning to his life.

A visit with his grandmother, Ruth, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, helped Drayton see what he had to do. A symbol of strength and elegance throughout his childhood, his grandmother had become incapacitated by the disease, although he could still see glimmers of her strength and strong will. "I wanted to give my grandmother, and others with Parkinson's, something to believe in... something they can see making a difference," he said.

Drayton dreamed up the idea of Parkinson's Power Across America, a 6,000-mile journey of hiking, biking and kayaking to raise funds for disease research. Following kick-off events in May in Durham and Boston, Drayton and five others, including alumna Becky Howland '98 and current student Jamie Purdy '01, set off on an adventure that is taking them across the country. The team, accompanied by a safety van driven by twin brothers Eric '99 and Matt Folia '99, planned to reach San Francisco by Sept. 12. The team hopes their efforts will inspire people to make generous pledges to fund research into cures for Parkinson's.

"When I think about the impact this campaign could have on people who suffer from Parkinson's disease, my grandmother's spirit, strength and determination spurs me on," says Drayton. "These are the reasons I started this trip, and why I'm going to finish it."

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