Australian native Steve Annear, managing director and board member for the Kirk Gibson Foundation for Parkinson’s based in downtown Birmingham, participated in the 2022 Detroit Free Press Marathon to raise money for the foundation, and his team has surpassed their $100,000 goal.
Because Annear, an amputee, walks on crutches, the marathon took him almost nine hours to complete. “I was the last one to cross the line,” he said. His family was there to support him along the way. “I’m married to a wonderful wife and we have three wonderful children.”
He first met baseball legend Kirk Gibson on a golf course where the former Detroit Tigers player and current color commentator was running up a steep embankment when someone recognized him. “I had no idea who he was, but he really is a Michigan hero,” said Annear. “People love him.
Gibson would later be diagnosed with the disease. “He is very modest and quite humble about his achievements. He doesn’t like to focus on that past; he is focused on his future with Parkinson’s,” said Annear. “He’s very courageous and tenacious and he’s very generous with his time. He has his own battle with the disease, but he helps others with his determination.”
Parkinson’s can be very difficult to manage, but early diagnosis and treatment, including exercise-based programs and diet have been shown to help those with the disease, which is a disorder of the nervous system. “Parkinson’s affects everybody in different ways,” he said. “There is not one program that suits everybody.”
A Birmingham resident, Annear, who volunteers for the foundation that aims to bring hope, help and inspiration to those living with Parkinson’s disease, started playing golf with Gibson, becoming friends.
“I was inspired by him and asked if I could help in any way,” said Annear. “I am helping everybody think through to what we do to execute his vision.”
Annear, who works as a business consultant, was raised in a small mining town in outback Australia and lived in Melbourne before moving to Michigan to set up a research and development company.
Born with a blood circulation problem in his left leg, amputation was the only option when he was 11. “What was left was very painful, so I could not use an artificial leg. I was just on crutches,” Annear said. When he was 24, what was left was amputated, and he spent about a year in the hospital when experimental surgery did not go well.
“It was quite a tough year, but I came out with no issues at all and I’ve been on crutches for a long time. I’ve lived my life in a way that I feel completely normal. What I’ve learned through all of that is not to let other people’s idea of normal define what is possible or not possible to me.
“The marathon was an example for me to combine that with fundraising for the organization.It was a wonderful combination and I was able to get it done. It wasn’t easy, but it was very fulfilling.
“I’ve figured out what I can do, and I don’t use having one leg as any kind of excuse. You can’t let things that happen to you negatively define you.”
He and Gibson share that positive outlook. “I’m inspired by Kirk and I know other people are as well,” Annear said. “Over the last year, we started to build out a team that is very excited and determined to do some really good things and the foundation is looking for good people to help.”
Story: Jeanine Matlow
Photo: Mackenzie O'Brien