Janesville72°

Birthday bash is 'Back to the Future'

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Kayla Bunge
July 23, 2009
— It's obvious why Dimitri Gianitsos is obsessed with the "Back to the Future" movies.

Cool character.


Cool car.


Totally cool time travel.


But his harmless obsession turned into something bigger: a themed birthday party that—with the help of a bunch of rambunctious kids, some creative grown-ups and a real-life DeLorean—raised a couple hundred dollars for a good cause.


"It was a crazy idea that just kept getting bigger and bigger," said Laurie Gianitsos, mom and party host.


Dimitri turned 8 on June 23, but he didn't celebrate his birthday until last Saturday because Laurie needed a few more weeks to plan the elaborate themed party.


The party started with a few simple ideas: Put up some "Back to the Future" posters, play some '80s music and dress up as characters from the movie.


But Dimitri was so fascinated by the DeLorean, the sports car-turned-time machine, that Laurie knew a poster of the car would not do.


Laurie searched online for a car available for rent, and she stumbled upon the DeLorean Midwest Connection, a group of owners and enthusiasts who participate in car shows, parades and fundraising events.


But she wasn't optimistic that a club member would be willing to lend his car to a birthday party for an 8-year-old "Back to the Future" fanatic.


"I really didn't think they would do such a small event," she said.


Laurie heard back from the group's event director in late June. He was hesitant, she said, but agreed to bring his car to the party—under a few conditions, including that the kids could sit in the passenger seat, not in the driver's seat.


"He sent me this long list of rules," she said.


Laurie was thrilled about securing the DeLorean, and she continued into full party-planning mode—with a little help from the birthday boy, who came up with perhaps the best idea of them all: Dimitri wanted to raise money for research into treatments and cures for Parkinson's disease.


In researching the "Back to the Future" movies, Dimitri learned the movies were released more than 20 years ago and the movies' star, Michael J. Fox, is pushing 50 years old and suffers from Parkinson's disease.


Laurie said her son asked a lot of questions about his favorite actor: Is he going to die? Does he look sick? Is the disease curable?


Dimitri was so moved he asked people to donate money instead of bringing presents to his party.


The Gianitsoses raised about $200, and they would like to give it to Team Fox and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.


Laurie is proud of her son for turning his birthday party into a fundraising effort.


"Obviously it still was a party," she said, "but it was just kind of neat that he wanted to somehow put some fun back into helping a good cause."



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