The Gabby Guy powers down some Pancakes for Parkinson’s and discovers why Children and Families First takes the cake.

Flapjacks For Fox and Friends

Signs pointing in all directions and the aroma of warm and fluffy flapjacks floating on the breeze made finding Delaware’s first Pancakes for Parkinson’s on the Riverfront easy as could be. The family breakfast was organized to raise funds and awareness for the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Co-chair Tracy Crowley was one of the many early risers who wore a safety orange T-shirt with “Got Pancakes?” screened across it. “Perfect pancake weather,” Tracy said of the fabulously bright fall day.

Tracy and her husband Dave introduced us to their daughter, Kendal Crowley, a 10th-grader at The Tatnall School, who gave us some insight. “My art teacher, Miss [Lisa] Ashley helped me design, print, and hand out flyers about today,” said Kendal, whose family has been affected by Parkinson’s.

More cool young ones, Input 6, an all-boy rock band comprised of six Tower Hill eighth-graders, rocked the riverfront courtyard under the big yellow crane. We met two of their proud-as-punch moms, Terry Murphy, whose son Sam Murphy played electric guitar, and Andrea Wakefield, whose son Grier Wakefield provided the lead vocals.

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During a rare quiet moment, busy event organizer and National MJFF CEO Deborah Brooks explained how the first Pancakes for Parkinson’s events, started at the University of Virginia, have raised over $200,000 to date. Brooks’ goal was to collect $25,000 for Team Fox at $5 a head. “But don’t do the math because many have given more,” she said. Brooks conveyed big thank yous to the Giacco, Ivy, Maley and Pettinaro families for their sponsorships and event committee commitments.

Parkinson’s disease, which affects about 6 million people worldwide, is the 14th-leading cause of death in the United States. Here’s hoping the $154 million MJFF has funded since 2006 flattens those numbers. Self-appointed “griddle director” Jennifer Curry told us that the kitchen went through 120 pounds of dry batter (that’s 24 5-pound boxes of pancake mix) between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. At the next super (sized) bowl we rubbed busy elbows with always well-dressed Ruthie Tingle, already recognized as a batter expert from her annual holiday cookie exchange.

Side by side stood mix mates Leigh Ann Barnes—a handbag designer and Heather Locklear look-alike—and Will Curry, who was also in a hurry. Will didn’t clarify butter “because this is a trans fat-free recipe,” but he did clarify that he is ambidextrous, which makes all the whisking of batter “less tiring.” Need an energy boost, Will? How about having one of the 1,500 cups of coffee Meg Maley had been brewing nonstop since dawn. “I haven’t had a cup yet—afraid we’d run out,” Meg bubbled. We just missed Meg’s father, Ed Maley, a former UD football coach who now has Parkinson’s. “He ran off with his walker to catch the game versus Hofstra,” Meg said. “Neither you nor Parkinson’s can stop him.”

We had the pleasure of chatting with another unstoppable soul, Sally Cairns, who told us of her weekly physical therapy and her twice (soon to be thrice) monthly, 2.6 mile walks with her daughter Jane Cairns Murray, who sat nearby. “The support and love from family and friends and the meds makes living with Parkinson’s almost tolerable,” Sally said. “Almost.” When asked what she likes on her cakes, she whispered, “Everything.”

Page 2: Gabby, continues…

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A Century and a Quarter of Caring

The celebration for Children and Families First’s 125th birthday—Cake, Cocktails and Comedy—was creative and classy. White vases full of colorful carnations (florist Meredith Graves’ recession-busting bloom of choice) at the check-in tables set the evening’s tone. Welcoming us were the colorful board members Jeffrey and Gayle Dillman, who kindly walked us into the increasingly popular and large Barclays Bank Crescent Building, which, it seems, has become the happening event venue.

Board member Katy Connolly and pretty daughter Caroline pointed out their decorating: balloons and polka-dotted ballot boxes, all in the same playful palette. Well done, ladies. Guests were invited to look—but don’t touch—then vote for their favorite of the seven sinfully delicious looking and artful cakes by Cakewalk, Cannon’s, Cupcake Heaven, Liz Marden, Papa’s, Short & Sweet, and Sweet Christine bakeries.

Our vote cast (we’re not telling) we tried the delish Pinot Noir donated by Gerret and Tatiana Copeland’s Bouchaine Vineyards. Thank you to old pal Doug Rydgren of D&D catering for the hefty pour, which makes saying I only had one glass almost truthful.

The comedy portion (No. 3 on the itinerary) started early, even before the night’s comedian had arrived, with Director of the Delaware Economic Development Office Alan Levin, who teased his lovely bride, board chair Ellen Levin. “My wife told me no tie,” Alan said. “So I’ve broken the official, big, blue ribbon rule. Thanks, Honey.”

Ellen, wearing a smart Dupioni silk jacket the color of mint frosting, and friend Leslie Newman, CEO of Children and Families First, chatted with us near a mural depicting C&FF’s history, which was beautifully designed by Joy Smoker. Joy used an acorn to mighty oak analogy to describe the charity’s growth. Leslie and Ellen told us how that tiny acorn, planted in 1884, has become a giant tree of services reaching out to helping families in need. “A tree of social services whose branches have touched every corner of the state” Leslie said.

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Governor Jack Markell and lovely wife, Carla, shared that they’d enjoyed watching UD defeat Hofstra University in football earlier that day. Mrs. Markell looked très sophisticated in a subtly printed velvet cocktail coat from Honey Kamali, worn over skinny black slacks with a big, bedazzling belt buckle, a gift from her friend Christine Rafetto, who scored it at DuPont Country Club’s annual Perfect Present holiday sale.

Jane Castle, wearing a ruffle-fronted cashmere top in black, flew solo. “Mike’s in D.C., won’t be home till very late,” the congressman’s wife explained. Not one to sit at home, Jane’s day included flipping for Pancakes for Parkinson’s, hooking a deal at Whale of a Sale, then stepping out for Delaware Mental Health Association’s E-Racing the Blues walk and run. Is she a runner, we asked? “More of a plodder, but I finished,” Jane joshed.

Humor was the event’s main course. Belly laughs came courtesy of comedian Paul Mercurio, a writer for “The Daily Show” and a Don Rickles-style cut-up. “You seem annoyed,” he said to Lieutenant Governor Matt Denn. To the slightly late U.S. Senator Tom Carper, he remarked, “Don’t let my show interrupt your eating. Doesn’t your wife feed you”? The senator gamely played along, allowing Paul to lob jelly beans into his open mouth from midfield. Good catch.

It was just the right prescription. Refills, please. Ciao for now. —The Gabby Guy

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