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Dean Crawford bikes to raise awareness for NPC

Nicole McAlee | Friday, August 30, 2013


Gregory Crawford, dean of the College of Science, spent his summer on the road during a 35-day, 3,467-mile cycling trip called “Road to Discovery” to raise money for research efforts on Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC), a fatal genetic disorder. Crawford became involved with NPC research after meeting former Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian’s son and daughter-in-law, Mike and Cindy Parseghian, three of whose four children had NPC. 

“I just sort of became almost enthralled with this whole concept of how [the Parseghian family] got through losing their children or having their children with this fatal disease,” Crawford said. “It was so inspirational, because they could have been mad at the world and everything else, but they kind of rolled up their sleeves and said ‘What can we do?'”

It was then that Crawford asked himself what he could do to help cure NPC. 

“I’m a physicist by training, and I admit I have absolutely no skills whatsoever to do anything related to Niemann-Pick, and so I wanted to do something, especially being the Dean,” Crawford said. “Basically, I wanted to see how I could contribute, since I couldn’t contribute anything meaningful in a scientific way.” 

In 2010, Crawford embarked on his first cycling trip, from Tucson, Ariz., to Notre Dame. He has participated in a cycling trip every year since that first summer and in the last four years has raised almost $300,000 for NPC research. Crawford began in Los Angeles on June 27 and arrived at his final destination in Baltimore on Aug. 2. He stopped in major cities along his route to meet with Notre Dame alumni, as well as with families affected by NPC. 

“It’s so rare that even a big city may only have two or three kids or families with Niemann-Pick,” Crawford said.

Crawford said alumni across the country joined him for parts of his ride, and he hopes to involve even more people in next year’s journey.

“There’s a lot of interest in seeing whether or not [Road to Discovery] could be expanded to be inclusive of other people that want to raise money for the cause,” Crawford said. 

In addition to raising money and awareness for NPC, the annual cycling trip increases interest in research at the College of Science. Crawford said Notre Dame’s Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases and several of the University’s faculty members fight for a cure for NPC. 

 “We’re certainly curiosity-driven scientists, but we also want to have an impact on lives,” Crawford said. “We want to send a message about what our faculty members are doing and their great research in this fight against Niemann-Pick.” 

Contact Nicole McAlee at
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