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Fighting Parkinson's, Step by Step


By Allison Elliott
College: Medicine


LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 22, 2011) - With every step of her first half-marathon on April 3, University of Kentucky alumna Emily Sandford will be fighting Parkinson's disease. 

Sandford, 29, lost her mother, Claudette Hill, to young-onset Parkinson's on April 3, 2007. To mark the fourth anniversary of her passing, Sandford is on a mission to raise $2,500 to further Parkinson's research at the Kentucky Neuroscience Institute (KNI) by participating in the Run the Bluegrass Half-Marathon. The day will also mark two other milestones for Sandford: the loss of more than 100 pounds, and her 30th birthday on April 5.

Sandford, who works as a marketing manager, is also a prolific blogger who has chronicled her fitness journey
 through her blog for approximately two years. A few months ago she announced her fundraising endeavor for KNI. So far she has raised over $1,500 in donations and sponsorships for the half-marathon, primarily through her blog. She has received donations from as far away as Ireland, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, as well as many from across the United States. 

On her blog, Sandford discusses her workouts with a trainer, her progress toward being able to complete the 13.1 miles of the half-marathon, her weight loss, and her feelings about her body and herself. Although she has completed two 5K races, Run the Bluegrass will mark the most distance she has ever covered at once. Blog readers have been able to share her training and fundraising journey toward the half-marathon. "I really am exposing myself. The best thing to come out of it is the support I receive from readers," Sandford  said. "My husband has also been amazing. He's a nurse, and compassionate and caring."

So, what inspired Sandford to challenge her body, while honoring the memory of her mother?
"My mom had young-onset Parkinson's, beginning in her mid-40s," Sanford said. "She passed away at the age of 50. She could not control her health; I can control obesity and my own health. Parkinson's is something you can't prevent. It slowly takes away people's motor skills and abilities. It can happen at any age and progress at any rate. By doing something active that people affected by Parkinson's can't do, we can bring light to the cause." 

Sandford relates that after the death of her mother and a series of stressful life events she gained a large amount of weight.
"My mom died, I had my birthday, I graduated with my MBA, I got a job, got married, got laid off, and started another job. That whole period was the breaking point," she said. While on travel for work, she felt herself becoming easily winded and realized "something has got to give." It was then she reached out to a personal trainer and started her blog. She rallied the resources of sponsors like the Lexington Athletic Club. "That was difficult," she admits. "I don't like asking for help, ever." 
"My husband has also been amazing. He's a nurse, and compassionate and caring." 

Sandford was inspired to fundraise for KNI after participating in the 2010 Business Lexington Trivia Bowl, which also benefited Parkinson's research at KNI. "I just want to encourage people to support the people locally who are making a change. We have this fantastic resource at KNI," Sandford said.

Emily Sandford holds a bachelor's degree in Integrated Strategic Communication, and an MBA, both from the University of Kentucky. She blogs at and Tweets @skinnyemmie. 

MEDIA CONTACT: Allison Elliott,

Page last updated: 2/4/2015 1:15:31 PM

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