The Brian Grant Foundation (BGF) formed the first-ever Portland to Coast Relay Team made up of a diverse group of people living with Parkinson’s disease and their loved ones. Parkinson’s disease is the fastest growing neurological condition in the world, impacting over 10 million people of all ages, backgrounds, and identities. BGF is determined to show the diversity in the Parkinson’s community and to share the stories and voices of those who are living with this disease but are often underrepresented in research and advocacy.

Brian Grant’s son Amani shares his motivation in walking Portland to Coast

Kevin Kwok shares the appreciation he has for his care partner Jenn after walking Portland to Coast together

What is Portland to Coast?

Portland to Coast is an annual relay race in Oregon that is part of the Hood to Coast Race Series. In a true feat of endurance, perseverance, and mind over matter, 12 walkers will be trekking 130 miles from Portland to Seaside on August 26 and 27, 2022. Six of the walkers have Parkinson’s disease, a movement disorder that impacts balance and coordination, causes slowness of movement, muscle stiffness, and tremors. These walkers include women, people of color, single parents, and people with young onset Parkinson’s disease. The other six team members are care partners, loved ones or advocates. The team will be led by BGF’s founder and former NBA icon, Brian Grant.

Listen to the podcast!

In the second season of our podcast, On Time: A Parkinson’s Podcast, co-hosts Brian Grant and Heather Kennedy talk to the Portland to Coast walkers to get their in depth stories of living with Parkinson’s disease. Listen to the podcast on our website or on any of the major streaming services.

LISTEN NOW

Meet the team!

Kerry Rae Connolly

Kerry Rae’s husband Harry was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 47 — Kerry Rae had just turned 40. After taking stock of what was important to them, they sold their possessions and backpacked around South America. Two years later Harry had a massive stroke while undergoing deep brain stimulation; in an instant Kerry Rae became his full-time caregiver. Optimism, laughter and support from others helped them cope until Harry passed away three years later.

Amani Grant

Brian’s oldest child, Amani, was 12 years old when his dad was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease. Amani is a student at Portland State University and works with an organization that helps people experiencing houselessness in Portland, Oregon. Amani also supports his dad and volunteers with the Brian Grant Foundation.

Brian Grant

During his 12‐year NBA career, Brian played for five teams and became a strong contributor to his surrounding communities. In 2006, Brian retired from professional basketball. Only two years later, he was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease at age 36. He started the Brian Grant Foundation to help people with Parkinson’s lead fulfilling lives.

Amber Hesford

In 2018, Amber was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease. Amber is an advocate for people with Parkinson’s; she uses dark humor and sarcasm to increase awareness of living with young onset PD through her wildly followed TikTok page @notthefakeamber. She is a “boy mom” with two sons who lives in El Paso, TX.

Katrina Kahl

Katrina is the executive director of the Brian Grant Foundation. She has nearly two decades of experience in public health, including a previous role at The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, where she met Brian. Katrina holds a Master of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and a Bachelor of Science (High Honors) in Biology from Portland State University.

Heather Kennedy

Heather was diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease in 2011. She is the founder of Kathleen Kiddo, an advocacy site offering resources and connection through candid and interactive presentations. An entertaining speaker known for her unique talks and film presentations about living well with Parkinson’s, Heather writes from her home near San Francisco, CA.

Kevin Kwok

An avid lifelong wannabe athlete, Kevin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in his late 40s. In his early stages, he took control of his Parkinson’s with bold irreverence, optimism, and biting humor. As a self-proclaimed amateur “PD satirist,” he has been a speaker and patient advocate for various foundations and has been featured on programs and webcasts. Kevin is coming to grips with his life today as he enters this next stage of Parkinson’s by balancing daily ever-increasing challenges  (motor, non motor, societal) with longer term transparency and positivity on the reality of living with this disability.

Michael McCastle

Michael is an endurance athlete, performance coach and philanthropist. He is a world record holder and the founder of the Twelve Labors Project, in which he performs feats of strength and endurance to raise awareness for causes, including Parkinson’s. Michael also serves in the US Navy. As a high school student, Mike was a caregiver for his father, who had Parkinson’s disease.

Jenn Rohl

Jenn is a supportive care partner that likes to make life fun while dealing with all that Parkinson’s can throw one’s way. She is the care partner to Kevin Kwok. She has been a vocal patient advocate for her own Lyme’s Disease and combining this with her experience of living with Kevin and his PD, she brings a daily empathy to being a care provider. Coming from a professional career in philanthropy, Jenn approaches PD caregiving as a ‘full time contact sport,” just as she excelled in her past career. 

Todd Vogt

Diagnosed with young onset Parkinson’s disease in 2018, Todd has been a rowing athlete and coach for over 20 years. He was the alternate for the US Paralympic Rowing Team for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and represented the US at the 2019 World Rowing Championships, finishing 6th place in the PR3 Men’s Pair event. Todd is currently training to represent the US at the 2022 World Rowing Championships.

Jenny Wilhelm

Jenny is a physical therapist at Oregon Health & Science University who specializes in neurological diagnoses including Parkinson’s disease. In addition to clinical care, she also seeks to enhance outcomes by assisting in several clinical intervention studies at the Balance Disorder Laboratory. Jenny has been a volunteer with the Brian Grant Foundation for more than a decade.

Gigi Van Rysselberghe

Gigi was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2017—rounding out an 18-month period she jovially calls her “medical trifecta.” Before her PD diagnosis, Gigi had recently undergone spinal fusion surgery and fought breast cancer. Through it all, Gigi remains fiercely optimistic. She enjoys pilates, hiking, skiing, and time spent with her husband, three children, and two dogs. She is also a member of OHSU’s Parkinson’s Patient Advisory Committee.