Touched by Parkinson’s, Bonnie Timarac responds with service on MCW’s Neuroscience Center Board

Feb. 17, 2014 College News - Bonnie Timarac shared a passion for design and entrepreneurship with her mother, Betty Johnson, a Milwaukee pioneer in interior decorating. Betty Johnson Interiors was the signature studio of its kind for decades, and Bonnie grew the business alongside her mother from the 1960s until it was sold in the 1990s.

The women’s closeness made Betty Johnson’s diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease even more personal for Timarac, who ultimately lost her mother to complications of the disease. The grief was compounded with the loss of Bonnie’s aunt and several family friends to Parkinson’s within a short span of time, and the experience has had a lasting impact on her.

“I don’t think people realize a neurological disease like Parkinson’s reverberates throughout a family, and it’s emotionally, financially and physically draining,” Timarac said. “It changes so many aspects of day-to-day living. And it is a disease at this point without a cure.”

This is where Timarac recognizes a critical opportunity to effect change, and her instrument is the Medical College of Wisconsin Neuroscience Center Board. Members of the board serve as advocates, ambassadors and philanthropists for the MCW Neuroscience Center. More than 100 faculty members conduct research through the Neuroscience Center to address debilitating diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer’s, addiction, depression, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s as well as injuries to the brain and spinal cord.

Reaching out to community
While MCW faculty have decades of experience in pioneering neuroscience research, the board itself is only a few years old; Timarac joined in 2012 and hit the ground running. Needing to communicate with the broader community about the knowledge being generated at MCW in the neurosciences, the board developed the Park Dinner, a dining event emphasizing Parkinson’s disease research and awareness while raising funds for the Neuroscience Center.

The inaugural Park Dinner was held last June and generated $35,000 in donations. A guest list of about 150 people included key MCW executives and faculty in the neurosciences. Bonnie and her husband, Ned, served as hosts for the event along with Bobbi and Roy Reiman, Rachel and Benjamin Wagner, and Jan Lennon.

“When people at an event can mingle with physicians, heads of departments, researchers and clinicians, it becomes more of an invitation to donate or be involved,” Timarac said. “I just feel that what they are doing at the Neuroscience Center is incredible. It is important that people realize there is a heart and soul in the neurosciences at the Medical College, with genuine caring for the cause.”

Paying it forward
The compassionate care her mother received from MCW physicians, in particular Gregory Harrington, MD, Associate Professor of Neurology, was Timarac’s initial draw to the Neuroscience Center. MCW staff,  she said, always took enough time with her mother and were always kind, informative and ready with answers to the many questions she had as a caregiver.

“They gave me, my husband, my family so much,” she said. “After your loved one is gone, you want to learn how you can help and pay back to make it easier for other families, including raising money for research. I think research is the answer.”

In addition to fundraising, education is a priority for the Neuroscience Center Board. Its members are committed to reaching out to younger generations, Timarac said, since most people associate neurological disorders with age. More people, however, are being diagnosed in their 40s and 50s, and some diseases strike in the 20s. The board’s goal is for the community to realize that MCW is a resource for expertise in these areas.

Passion for volunteering
Likewise, Timarac is an experienced volunteer. In addition to neurological disorders, she has a passion for children. She was involved with the founding of Women for MACC, which supports Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer, Inc. (the MACC Fund). She was a founding board member of the Child Abuse Prevention (CAP) Fund in Milwaukee, now a Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin initiative.

She has also served for 11 years on the Desert Guild for Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital in California. To date, the organization has raised more than $1.5 million to increase hospital resources for this population of underserved children.

Though thousands of miles apart, her service in Loma Linda and her service in Milwaukee are driven similarly by teamwork. Managing a family business taught Timarac the value of connecting with others to work toward a common goal, and she has found this trait with the Neuroscience Center Board.

“I come from a family that works together in a service-oriented role,” she said. “I have a comfort level with MCW because of the positive energy and resourcefulness of the people involved. I’m very honored to be on the board and to work with these wonderful people.”

Coming event

Second annual Park Dinner benefitting the MCW Neuroscience Center
June 22, 2014
Lake Park Bistro, 3133 E. Newberry Blvd., Milwaukee
Contact: Pam Garvey, 414-955-4704

Medical College of Wisconsin
8701 Watertown Plank Road
Milwaukee, WI 53226
(414) 955-8296
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Page Updated 02/17/2014
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