From autism to epilepsy, many well-known disorders have been linked to the failure of the human cell’s energy supplier: mitochondria.
It may not have the same name recognition as these high-profile ailments, but mitochondrial dysfunction has a profound impact on overall health.
“It isn’t necessarily part of everyone’s’ mainstream vocabulary or vernacular,” said Laura Stanley, executive director of the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine. “But because mitochondria play such a role in all of the body organ functions, it also plays a pivotal role in some of the neurological diseases that are so prevalent these days.”
At least 1 in 2,500 people are affected, with many under-diagnosed, according to the foundation. Mitochondrial dysfunction is also a central element in diseases like Lou Gehrig’s and Parkinson’s.
The Sandy Springs-based foundation will host its fourth annual Hope Flies — Catch the Cure celebration Friday in Buckhead to raise awareness and funds for the treatment of and research on mitochondrial disease.
The organization’s logo is a firefly, whose tail glows when mitochondria are functioning effectively. The flying theme will reach new heights at the event when the newest awareness campaign, “Firefly People,” is unveiled, Stanley said.
At the party, attendees can learn more about the campaign, participate in a live auction, have dinner and cocktails, dance to the music of Yacht Rock Revue and take photo booth pictures at the laid-back event. Stanley said the party is purposefully un-stuffy and welcoming to both young and old.
“We’re a relatively young organization and we really wanted to differentiate ourselves,” she said of the inaugural backyard party held four years ago. “People came and had so much fun. We just wanted to continue that.”
Danielle Poppins, who is co-chairing the event with her husband, Jim, said the foundation is close to her heart because her 14-year-old son Andrew, who attends Cumberland Academy of Georgia in Sandy Springs, has autism and a dear friend of hers lost a child to mitochondrial disease in 2011.
“It was kind of like a light bulb went on,” the east Cobb resident said of amping up her involvement with the foundation over the past couple of years.
Stanley said the fundraising goal for this year is about $250,000, which is equal to what the event raised last year. All funds will go toward a new research project conducted in conjunction with the New York-based Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation that will study the impact of mitochondrial dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease.
If you go:
What: Hope Flies – Catch the Cure hosted by the Foundation for Mitochondrial Medicine
When: Friday at 7:30 p.m.
Where: Mason Murer Fine Art, 199 Armour Drive, Buckhead
Why: To raise awareness and funds for research on and treatment of mitochondrial disease
Cost: General admission $150.
Tickets can be purchased online or at the door