Matt Barbaccia of Pittsford leaves Feb. 27 on a cross country
journey to help raise awareness about Parkinson's disease.
Matt Barbaccia was only eight years old the year he lost his grandfather to Parkinson’s disease in 2002. At the time, another relative also had been diagnosed with Parkinson's.
“I’ve sort of grown up seeing first-hand how this disease affects people,” Barbaccia said.
Now age 23, the Pittsford resident is determined to make a difference.
Barbaccia, a recent Syracuse University graduate, will ride a bicycle cross country to raise awareness —and critical funds — for Parkinson’s disease, a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder. His 4,000-mile 'Ride4Parkinson’s' trek begins next week in Jacksonville, Florida.
He will zig zag across the country raising awareness of Parkinson’s through social media, events and media interviews.
“I had the idea to bike across the country and the more I talked to people who’ve done similar trips, the more I realized it’s a way to support a good cause.”
He estimates he will finish his journey in mid to late May in California.
|Matt Barbaccia, of Pittsford (right) credits his uncle Mark Williams, of Pittsford, (left) with being one of the inspirations for his upcoming Ride4Parkinsons. Williams, a musician, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2000. (Photo: Provided)|
During the ride’s nighttime hours, Barbaccia will camp, stay with friends and family along the route or be hosted by fellow members of Warm Showers, a “pay it forward” organization of more than 100,000 touring cyclists whose worldwide members provide shelter to other members.
“My trip is self-supported, meaning that there will be no assistance outside of what I am able to carry with me on my bike,” he said. “I want this to be challenging, otherwise it wouldn’t be so meaningful to me.”
Barbaccia credits his late grandfather, Andrew J. Barbaccia Sr., and his uncle, Mark Williams, as motivators for the trip. His uncle is an accomplished pianist who formerly worked at the Eastman School of Music’s Sibley Music Library and as the director of Music at Trinity Lutheran Church in Brooklyn.It is difficult for him to play now because of tremors and concentration issues.
“I am so proud of Matthew and honored that he names me as one motivation for taking on this project,” said Williams. “It is inspiring to see how he has grown into a young man who wants to make a difference in people’s lives, not just with this ride, but in all facets of his life.”
Matt Barbaccia, of Pittsford, will leave on a trans America bike trip to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson's disease on February 27, 2017. (Photo: Katie Barbaccia)
Mariel Rosario, a graduate student at SU's School of Information Studies, and five other students have been assisting Barbaccia with his trip by creating the Ride4Parkinson’s website. The students are part of iConsult – an all-volunteer group that matches SU graduate students in Information Studies with entrepreneurs or philanthropic focused individuals like Barbaccia to provide one-on-one consulting services.
“He’s a very inspiring young man,” Rosario said. “We see his motivation, we see his drive and it’s really helped motivate us. He’s doing something we all dream about – trying to spread awareness of an issue that’s important to him, but also going through his own journey of growth.”
All of the proceeds from Ride4Parkinson’s will be donated to Team Fox, a grassroots community fundraising program of The Michael J. Fox Foundation. In the fall, Barbaccia will then begin his two-year stint as a Teach For America corps member.
Recent Syracuse University grad Matt Barbaccia, 23, of Pittsford. (Photo: Katie Barbaccia)
You can help
For more information, visit https://ride4parkinsons.com/.
The Thirsty Turtle in Victor will host a sendoff event for Matt from 5 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 21. The public is invited. Email Ride4Parkinsons@gmail.com.
To donate and for more information, visit https://ride4parkinsons.com/. You may also call a Team Fox representative to donate, at (212) 509-0995.