On December 3, 2009, Arizona’s sports celebrities and philanthropists celebrated the opening of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center with Muhammad and Lonnie Ali. The center is located at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph's Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, and is the nation’s most comprehensive Parkinson’s disease facility.
With about 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year, there are currently 1 million Americans with Parkinson's disease. As of yet, there is no cure. Ali, who is a three time heavy weight boxing champion and the most famous athlete in history, attended the grand opening event. He was diagnosed with the disease in 1984.
Physicians at the new 10,000 square-foot facility are expected to see about 1,600 new patients annually, double the current number and thousands more patients and their families are expected to attend one of the center’s numerous classes, support groups or exercise activities.
Along with his wife Lonnie, other celebrities, and hundreds of well wishers, Ali toured the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, stopping to talk and clown with the medical team. “Muhammad and I are delighted to share in the excitement of the grand opening of this new Center,” said Lonnie. “Our overriding goal is to help patients and their families to live full and productive lives. This disease has been a journey for us and we have received a lot of help along the way. Our hope is that this center helps many others in their journey.”
The Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center is funded by donations, and its primary funding source is Celebrity Fight Night, an annual star-studded event that is attended by the Ali’s. At the grand opening it was announced that Lonnie and Muhammad Ali have established a fund at the Arizona Community Foundation to provide support in the areas of education and patient care for indigent families.
Source and photo: Arizona Community Foundation