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Running for family and Parkinson’s research

Dedication, prayer and meditation were key elements fueling Joy Kim’s grueling training efforts. In November, Kim and her sisters ran from Staten Island to Central Park during the TCS New York City Marathon, an event that was as emotionally rewarding as physically challenging: They participated to honor the memory of loved ones lost to Parkinson’s and cancer.

Kim’s mother-in-law, Min Ja, had Parkinson’s disease and passed away in 2021. It was a difficult time, and it elevated the importance of biomedical research in the eyes of the Kim family.

“My father-in-law lovingly took care of Min Ja for six years, and we experienced how terrible Parkinson’s can be in the terminal stages. There is so much pain and suffering, not only for the affected person, but for friends, family and caretakers,” Kim said.

That suffering was top of mind after Min Ja’s death. The family looked to make a generational impact and raised funds for Parkinson’s research. Kim wanted those donations to have a local effect and recommended Van Andel Institute — she knew of VAI’s work through Grand Rapids connections and later saw the value of her support firsthand during a tour of the Institute.

“VAI’s impact on Grand Rapids is wonderful,” Kim said. “You see it in the first-rate facility, the excellent researchers, and the driven individuals who work there — they are actively pursuing the mission to help those who face Parkinson’s and cancer.”

Following her family‘s donation in Min Ja’s memory, Kim remained interested in supporting the Institute. She learned of the Van Andel Institute Marathon Team and saw it as the perfect opportunity to run a world-famous event while raising money for research. She was joined by her sisters, who ran in honor of their father who died from kidney cancer. It’s an uplifting challenge, Kim said: Whether she trained for one or 10 miles a day, it never got easier, but knowing that her family was involved elevated her commitment. And when the training was really challenging, Min Ja always provided inspiration.

“She was a beautiful woman, wife, mother, grandmother and friend,“ Kim said. “The United States gave so many good opportunities to her, and she always had a desire to give back. I hope our support of research can extend the positive impact Min Ja had in our lives to future generations.”

To learn more about the VAI Marathon Team and its benefits, please contact McKenzie Hollern at McKenzie.Hollern@vai.org or 616.234.5598.