AMIDON — Roxee Jones drove from Dickinson to White Butte in rural Slope County on Sunday morning expecting a quick hike up North Dakota’s highest point.
The Grand Forks woman never thought she’d spend time with a famous actor who is the face of a cause near to her heart.
Actor Michael J. Fox fl ew into southwest North Dakota on Sunday to join Sam Fox, the Michael J. Fox Foundation’s outreach and engagement offi cer who is making a threemonth journey across the United States to raise money for Parkinson’s disease research.
Jones said the actor actually led the hike up the butte, which is 3,507 feet above sea level.
“It was just an awesome experience — overwhelming that he showed up there,” said Jones, who teaches Parkinson’s wellness classes at the Grand Forks YMCA and whose father, Donald Lutz of Dickinson, lives with the disease.
Michael J. Fox has been the world’s most visible face and most outspoken advocate of Parkinson’s disease research since he was diagnosed in 1992.
Sam Fox, who is not related to the actor, is bicycling across the country and climbing the highest peak in 48 states with the goal of raising $1 million for Parkinson’s research during his Tour de Fox adventure that began in early June.
So far, he is more than halfway toward that goal and still has about two months to go.
He is scheduled to climb Harney Peak in South Dakota’s Black Hills on Wednesday. The tour is expected to end the weekend after Labor Day in Washington and British Columbia.
“I think there is a need for this project that they’re working on to raise awareness for Parkinson’s and get more interest in fi nding a cure for it,” said Jones’ mother Darlene Lutz, of Dickinson. “That’s what’s behind it all.”
The 78-year-old woman was the oldest person on the hike Sunday and was joined by her children.
Even though she didn’t quite reach the top of the butte, she said tagging along with Michael J. Fox and Sam Fox — an extreme sports adventurer who was inspired by his mother’s battle with the disease — was an extraordinary experience.
“It was a surprise to all of us,” she said.
Denise Lutz, administrator of clinic services at CHI St. Joseph’s Health in Dickinson and the Lutzes’ daughter-inlaw, said Michael J. Fox’s resilience was one of the most memorable moments of the day.
“I just have a lot of respect for him to keep pushing,” she said.
Michael J. Fox, best known for his starring roles in “Back to the Future” trilogy, as well as the long-running TV series “Family Ties” and “Spin City,” posted a photo with his teenage daughters from the top of White Butte to Twitter on Sunday afternoon, writing “Out on the trail in North Dakota with @SamFoxMJFF and Aquinnah and Schuyler.”
Liz Mathison, the daughter of longtime Fargo TV anchor Marv Bossart, said she participated in the hike and helped raise $2,000 toward Sam Fox’s goal, adding that the Dakota Medical Foundation of Fargo is providing matching funds.
Bossart’s family established the Marv Bossart Foundation for Parkinson’s Support in April 2013 shortly after his death. Mathison said having a national organization bring awareness for Parkinson’s on a local level is important. “The fact that we were able to participate as a family and a foundation and help (Sam Fox) reach his goal is part of our complete mission,” Mathison said. “It fi ts right in with what we’re trying to do.” More than a dozen others — many of them families of those affected by Parkinson’s disease — participated in the hike. Jones and Mathison said Michael J. Fox spent the most time with two people on the hike who live with Parkinson’s disease. “We all talked to him,” Jones said. “He was willing to take the time to talk to any of us.”