A friend of a friend-Jenny Mulligan-Maria Parker-February 26

One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 26, 2015.

My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.

Of all the people in my small universe I call friends probably none is more amazing as a leader than Maria Parker. Maria is the epitome that you don’t have to have a position or fancy title to be a leader. I am not sure I have been around anyone like Maria that wields little power but possesses a tremendous amount of influence on others. She has the type of influence that CEO’s and politicians crave. People will follow Maria because she is credible, real, sincere, and caring. She is also tenacious and focused on people and causes she believes in. Those qualities make her a cherished friend.

Maria Parker lives in Lumberton, NC and her entire family moved here 15 years ago and because of her husband new job. Maria has made our community a better place to live.

She excels in so many roles it is hard to list them all but I going to give it a try. She is mother to four of those most fantastic young people you will ever meet. She home schooled all four for the majority of their pre-high school education. She has seen all four attend world-class colleges as top-notch students.

She is a grandmother and this is a new role for her but you can tell awesome is written all over this new chapter in her life.

She is a wonderful wife that supports her husband Dr. Jim Parker in so many different ways. Having a husband that is a medical doctor is not always easy but Maria makes it look like a breeze. In addition to a his medical work Jim also is a business owner with Maria so she partners with him in that role.

Maria is a professional counselor. She went back to school to earn her master’s degree in counseling later in life after all four of her children were grown.

Maria is the CFO of a very successful company called CRUZ Bikes.


Maria is a world-class athlete and even though it isn’t nice to state a women’s age she is beyond 50. No one rides a recumbent bike like Maria Parker. She has completed marathons, half-marathons, and 5K’s too numerous to mention. Some of her cycling world records include:

24 hour road record: 469.198 miles (19.550 mph)

12 hour road record: 257.804 miles (21.48 mph)

200 mile road record : 9:17:03.0 (21.54 mph)

100 mile road record: 4:27:19 (22.45 mph)

Maria is an unbelievable non-profit leader. She was the driving force behind the creation of the non-profit Robeson Road Runners (RRR) and their signature event Rumba on the Lumber. That event will be held March 6-7, 2015 in Lumberton, NC. If you like running, live music, art, and chili then check the event out next week-end. If you attend there probably stands a good chance you will see Maria there even though she no longer is president of the RRR. This year’s event is going to honor another friend Jeff Cushing who I profiled on January 8, 2015. Jeff was a good friend to Maria and others and avid cyclist and runner.



Maria is also involved in another non-profit which came out of her love and passion for Jenny Paparella Mulligan her sister. That non-profit is called 3000 Miles to a Cure. From that cause came a film called HOPE, a documentary that tells the parallel stories of two sisters-my friend Maria Parker and her sister Jenny taking on the impossible.



Maria Parker


imageMaria and Jenny

Maria and Jenny’s journey

In October of 2012, Jenny Paparella Mulligan was diagnosed with brain cancer and told she would likely live 18 months to two years. Family and friends feverishly looked for treatments for brain cancer and found lots of research showing great promise, however very few of these experimental treatments seemed to make it to human clinical trials because there just wasn’t enough funding. The space between academic research and human clinical trials is rightly called “the valley of death.”

Jenny’s sister Maria Paparella Parker, an endurance cyclist with four Ultramarathon World Cycling Association records including the 100 mile, 200 mile, 12 hour and 24 hour had qualified for the famous and grueling Race Across America (RAAM) many times. But it wasn’t until Jenny’s diagnosis that Maria Parker decided to compete in Race Across America in order to try to make a difference by raising money for Brain Cancer Research. Parker and her team called the effort 3000 Miles to A Cure.

Parker finished the race first among women in 11 days and 18 hours, despite having her follow vehicle totaled and dealing with the daunting physical, mental and emotional challenges of what is widely considered one of the toughest races in the world. Race Across America staff called her race The Most Inspirational RAAM Story Ever.

From that race came the film HOPE.

Since October of 2012, 3000 Miles to a Cure has ignited what they call a brainstorm, uniting people in hope and action for a cure for brain cancer. 100% of the money they raise goes directly to funding brain cancer research. They strive to keep their costs low and when they have them, they are often covered by special donors. They pledge to continue until brain cancer no longer kills.

Jenny lost her battle with cancer on June 19, 2014 but the war against brain cancer has not been lost. Jenny is survived by her husband Ray, her five children, Charlie, Ethan, Tim, Grace and Joe, her parents, Vince and Peggy Paparella.

If you or people you know want to get the film HOPE aired in your community to aid in the fight against brain cancer go to the link below.

We have HOPE.


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