Dean Greg Crawford’s Road to Discovery cross-county bike rides and other initiatives have energized the drive for a cure for Niemann-Pick Type C disease, legendary Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian told a reception crowd in the Jordan Hall of Science on May 29.
The event, including a Mass in Jordan, welcomed Crawford as he passed through South Bend on this year’s ride from Boston to Pebble Beach, Calif., where he will participate in the Parseghian Golf Classic for NPC Research on June 22-24. Peter Cholak, a math professor, accompanied Crawford on the ride from northwestern Ohio to campus, with a stop at Parseghian’s house in Granger where he signed the Road to Discovery van.
The event also was dedicated to Audrey Vargo-Gogola, the daughter of Tracy Vargo-Gogola, an adjunct assistant professor in biological sciences who does breast cancer research in the Harper Cancer Institute, and her husband Mike. Audrey died recently at age 3 from complications related to a genetic illness. The Audrey Gogola Scholarship Fund has been established in her memory to help worthy medical students.
Parseghian told the story of starting the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation within a week of hearing that three of his grandchildren had been diagnosed with NPC in the fall of 1994. The foundation has raised $38 million and supports work at 22 laboratories that have advanced understanding of the once-mysterious rare disease.
“As time moves forward, you kind of run out of steam,” he said. “We needed new blood to come in. People wore out, but we weren’t going to give up. We’ve extended the lives of children. We’ve done a number of things that are very positive.”
Crawford’s engagement with the effort, including the ride from Tucson to Notre Dame three years ago that heralded a new level of collaboration between the Foundation and the University, provide the needed new energy, Parseghian said.
“It was like divine intervention. He can take us where we want to go,” Parseghian said, praising Crawford as a scientist, fundraiser and bike rider on his third and longest ride so far. “This is a monumental challenge. If he can accomplish that, I feel confident he’s going to find a solution to the very thing we’re trying to solve.”