WALLA WALLA - While April, the official month for awareness of Parkinson's disease, is past, Wilma Schmerer is paying no attention to the calendar - she's a little too busy in the kitchen.
Now into May, the Walla Walla businesswoman has found a way to let people have their charitable-giving cake and eat it, too. Up until the last day of the month, she said.
Schmerer, who was diagnosed with the illness nine years ago, decided to try something new this year in the way of fundraising for Team Fox, the foundation began by actor Michael J. Fox for Parkinson's research.
The disorder is a motor-system disorder, developing gradually and often starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. But while tremors may be the most well-known sign of Parkinson's disease, the illness also commonly causes a slowing or freezing of movement, according to the Mayo Clinic.
A sufferer may lose the ability to show expression in the face, his or her arms may not swing when walking and speech often becomes soft and mumbling. Parkinson's symptoms tend to worsen as the disease progresses, sometimes leading to dementia
While there is no cure for Parkinson's disease - which effects more than one million people in the United States - many different types of medicines can treat its symptoms.
For Schmerer, the best medicine is staying busy, meaning she also gets double mileage out of her fundraising plan.
For every $10 donation to her Team Fox account, Schmerer will bake her famous Cinnamon Swirl Cake and deliver it to the local donor.
For those living outside the Walla Walla Valley, she sends a copy of the recipe and complete instructions.
The cake, she said, costs her $4 to produce and is a zealously treasured family favorite. While there is commercial cake mix involved, it's hardly recognizable with the extra ingredients Schmerer stirs in.
The real selling point is the crackly, sugary "crust" she creates around the outside of the Bundt-pan goodie, the chef said.
Schmerer has had the recipe for more than 30 years and has seen similar ones, but never this exact one. It originated with Ruthie Wold, who worked for years at Albertsons. Wold's husband passed it to Schmerer's husband at a poker game.
That transaction resulted in a moistly-delicious family tradition being born, shesaid. "We had it for any special day."
She recently learned her children have carried on the Cinnamon Swirl Cake tradition in their own homes. So steeped in it, in fact, they are willing to travel from Utah to help Mom in the kitchen should enough donations come in for Wilma's Team Fox Parkinson's project.
Schmerer chose to support the Michael J. Fox Foundation because of its quick turn-around in using nearly every penny of every donated dollar for research, she explained. "The money does not just sit there. And they keep the administration costs very small."
In the past few years, the foundation has raised several million dollars to fight the disorder. Schmerer refuses to be a victim of Parkinson's and takes every opportunity she can to raise awareness and fund raise, she said Friday.
Even when it's one cake and $10 at a time.
For more information on how to make a donation, go to www.teamfox.org, click on "support a member," then search for Wilma Blanchard Schmerer or Walla Walla, WA or A Cake for Parkinsons. Schmerer can be reached at 522-5075.