Third annual UNMC Skate-a-thon to raise funds for Parkinson's research

Previous two UNMC Skate-a-thons have raised total of $91,000

The University of Nebraska Medical Center is taking another run at putting Parkinson’s disease on ice.

On Jan. 25-26, the UNMC Ice Rink will host the third annual UNMC Skate-a-thon for Parkinson’s. Skaters are set to circle the ice for 24 consecutive hours – 5 p.m. to 5 p.m. – to raise money for Parkinson’s research at UNMC.

The previous two skate-a-thons at UNMC netted more than $91,000 with $51,000 being raised in 2012 and $40,000 generated in 2011.

Proceeds go toward:

  • Clinical and basic science Parkinson’s research at UNMC; and
  • The PHD Program (Parkinson’s Health Development), a non-profit, local program that offers affordable exercises and activities to improve the quality of life for persons with Parkinson’s.

The public is invited to attend and participate. Cost is $10 for individuals or $40 for families. The registration fee includes skate rental and ice access. People can skate as long as they wish.

“Our goal is to have skaters on the ice throughout the 24-hour period,” said Keith Swarts, director of business services, noting that. more than 2,000 attendees, 800 skaters and 150 volunteers participated last year.

Swarts said the UNMC Ice Rink can handle up to 125 people on the ice at any time, and he noted there is plenty of room for spectators. A heated tent will allow skaters and spectators a place to stay warm.

Highlights of the 2013 Skate-a-thon include opening and closing ceremonies, a “Pajama Skate,” and a “Shiver Skate” in light clothing in the spirit of a polar plunge.

There also will be a variety of special skating performances, including several by the “Thriller Guys,” who will perform their rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video at 9 p.m. and midnight on Friday, then do a “YMCA” and  “Gangnam Style” performance at 10 a.m. on Saturday.

At noon on Saturday, tricycle races featuring prominent UNMC employees will help bolster fund raising efforts this year. Participants will seek pledges prior to the Skate-a-Thon.

There also will be hot drinks, snacks and soup. DJs and guest emcees will keep the event moving.

The Skate-a-thon is the idea of an Omaha couple, Ted and Colleen Wuebben, who hosted their own Skate-a-thon for three years by flooding their back yard before the event moved to UNMC. Colleen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005 at the age of 52 and is being treated by John Bertoni, M.D., a professor in the UNMC Department of Neurological Sciences.

The Wuebben family continues to serve as coordinators of the event, but UNMC and the University of Nebraska Foundation will be providing support on many different levels, Swarts said.

“Even though Colleen won’t be able to attend this year due to health reasons, there is no doubt that she wants the Skate-a-thon to continue,” said Jenny Knutson, one of the Wuebbens’ five children. “She will certainly be with us in spirit. She knows all about Parkinson’s and wants to do anything possible to help others with this challenging disease.”

Skaters and non-skaters can register online or make a pledge at http://www.unmc.edu/publicrelations/skateathon.htm. Walk-in registration also will be available at the event.

Metro Health Services Federal Credit Union is a Double Lutz Sponsor of the UNMC Skate-a-thon for Parkinson’s. Sponsorships are still available. For information on becoming a sponsor, go to http://www.unmc.edu/publicrelations/skateathon_become-a-sponsor.htm.

Tentative Schedule of Events

Friday – Jan. 25

5-7 p.m.           Open skating

7 p.m.              Opening ceremonies

9 p.m.              “Thriller” dance performance by the “Thriller Guys”

11 p.m.            Pajama Skate

Saturday – Jan. 26

Midnight         “Thriller” dance performance by the “Thriller Guys”

1 a.m.              Shiver Skate

5 a.m.              Halfway done photo

9:30 a.m.         Dance party on ice (e.g. line dancing, chicken dance) – open to all skaters

10 a.m.            “YMCA” and “Gangnam Style” dance performance by the “Thriller Guys”

10 a.m.-noon   Jake Ryan, 1 Eyed Jacks/2-6 p.m. host on The River (89.7), will be guest emcee.

Noon               Tricycle racing featuring prominent UNMC employees

4:30 p.m.         Closing ceremonies


UNMC’s Ice Rink

The skate-a-thon will take place on UNMC’s Ice Rink, which is located east of 42nd Street about halfway between Dewey Avenue and Emile Street. It is located north of the Sorrell Center and south of the UNMC College of Pharmacy.

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Facts about Parkinson’s disease:


  • Is a motor system disorder resulting from the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells.
  • The four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

- tremor or trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw and face;

- rigidity or stiffness of the limbs and trunk;

- slowness of movement; and

- postural instability or impaired balance and coordination.

  • As many as one million Americans currently live with Parkinson’s. This is more than the combined number of people with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease.
  • Approximately 60,000 more are diagnosed each year, and this number doesn’t reflect the thousands of cases that go undetected.
  • An estimated seven to 10 million people worldwide are living with Parkinson’s disease.
  • Affects about 3 percent of the population over the age of 65.
  • Men are 1.5 times more likely to have Parkinson’s than women.
  • Incidence will double in the next 40 years with the number of elderly people soaring.
  • Incidence of Parkinson’s increases with age, but an estimated 4 percent of people with Parkinson’s are diagnosed before the age of 50.
  • There is no cure for Parkinson’s, but a variety of medications provide relief from the symptoms. 



Tom O'Connor
UNMC Public Relations
(402) 559-4690 (office)
(402) 650-7063 (cell)