Mike Hoffman, President of Turf Hotels and Chairman of the annual Epilepsy Golf Tournament, sits down with Saratoga.com for a 10 Questions interview. Learn how this businessman balances his career and family life while remaining instrumental in his advocacy for epilepsy research.
Editor's Note: Mike's grandson, Jake, passed away in December 2010 after a courageous battle with epilepsy. Jake's parents, Heather and Brian, have established Jake's Help From Heaven, a charitable organization, in his honor. The primary purpose of Jake's Help From Heaven is to provide grants, financial assistance, and non-medical support for children and their families who have been impacted by debilitating illnesses. If you would like to contribute to Jake's Help From Heaven, you may make a donation online.
- What is your career?
I am in the hotel business. In 1975 my family opened the the "Turf" which in 1987 became known as the Holiday Inn Turf. We worked very hard, and we learned a lot about the business.
For a long time I thought that we should not open a second hotel until the first one was perfect. Eventually I learned that no matter how hard I (we) worked that perfection was impossible to achieve. We have opened 5 additional hotels since 1990 and have sold two. We strive for quality both in terms of the physical building and in terms of our staff and the service that they provide.
- Are you native to the area?
I have lived in the Albany area most of my entire life. I went to grade school at Loudonville Elementary and then on to Shaker Junior and Senior High. The only time that I have been away from the area is when I went to college at Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York.
- What is your passion?
My passion is my family and my work, and I know that the benefit of one comes at the expense of the other. I have worked very hard at work because I know or fear that the difference between success and failure is a very fine line. Fortunately I am becoming more selfish as I get older, and I look forward to more time with my wife and family and a little less time at work. I still enjoy work, just not as much.
- When did you begin advocating for epilepsy research and awareness?
In 2007, I participated in the Epilepsy Golf Tournament. A friend of mine purchased a foursome, and I played with his group. Following the day of golf, I met the Executive Director of the Epilepsy Foundation of Northeastern New York and shared with her that my grandson had recently spent over 100 days in Boston Children's Hospital and had been diagnosed with epilepsy. About 6 months later, I joined the Board of Directors of the local Epilepsy Foundation, and soon after that I stepped up to Chair the Annual Golf Tournament. Through my work with the Foundation I quickly learned how prevalent epilepsy is and feel strongly that we need to work towards the eradication of all seizures. The Foundation is an excellent source for information, education and support.
- Can you tell us about your grandson and his story?
I have two grandsons, Ethan and Jake. We were celebrating Ethan's two year old birthday party on Saturday, January 20th, 2007 (Jake was 8 1/2 months old). It was a perfect party in every way. The next morning, my wife Susana and I were going on vacation to Aruba, and we had an early flight scheduled. My son in law, Brian, called us at 4:00 am, and he said that Jake was ill and that they were at Saratoga Hospital. We cancelled our flight and went to the hospital. Jake ended up at the Children's Hospital in Boston and spent the next 117 days there.
Jake was diagnosed with epilepsy, and when he came home in May (2007), he was fed via a feeding tube. The feeding tube was removed in September (2007). He is now on the ketogenic diet which in some epilepsy cases has made significant positive improvements. While I am seeing some positive improvements in Jake since the diet began, we still have a long ways to go.
Jake has been very fortunate in the fact that he receives excellent care. Currently, he goes to the Prospect School in Glens Falls, New York on Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings from 8:45 am until 11:45 am. My daughter Heather, my son in law Brian, and I share the drop off and pick up responsibilities. Jake has a one-on-one aide who takes great care of him.
I know that having a child with a disability can be very tough on a family. Jake is lucky to have such great parents in my daughter Heather and her husband Brian. We all pitch in to help when needed. Somehow Jake has the ability of making good people better. I see it happen all of the time.
- What causes epilepsy or predisposes people to the disease?
Epilepsy is a tendency to have recurrent seizures. Seizures are symptoms of abnormal brain function. Despite growing knowledge of causes, 70% of cases are of unknown cause.
- Potential Causes of Epilepsy in Newborns include:
- Brain malformations
- Lack of oxygen during birth
- Low levels of blood sugar, blood calcium, blood magnesium or other electrolyte disturbances
- Inborn errors of metabolism
- Intracranial hemorrhage
- Maternal drug use
- Potential Causes of Epilepsy in Infants and Children include:
- Fever (febrile seizures)
- Brain tumor (rarely)
- Potential Causes of Epilepsy in Children and Adults include:
- Congenital conditions (Down's syndrome; Angelman's syndrome; tuberous sclerosis and neurofibromatosis)
- Genetic factors
- Progressive brain disease (rare)
- Head trauma
- Potential Causes of Epilepsy in the Elderly include:
- Alzheimer's disease
- Genetic factors. People with first-degree relatives (parents or siblings) who have epilepsy are at increased risk of developing seizures themselves.
- How does the annual golf tournament help the cause?
All of the money raised at the golf tournament remains right here in our community and is used to provide programs and services to families affected by epilepsy. Nearly 20% of the Epilepsy Foundation's budget comes from special events, including the golf tournament, which was Monday, October 5, 2009 at Wolferts Roost Country Club, as well as our annual gala (March 5, 2010 Theme: An Evening in Saratoga!) and annual bowl for epilepsy. Last year the Foundation also held its 1st Annual Saratoga Stroll for Epilepsy on Sunday, September 27, 2009 at Saratoga Spa State Park. My daughter, Heather, chaired that event.
- What does the Epilepsy Foundation do for families affected by epilepsy?
The Epilepsy Foundation offers an array of services for individuals with epilepsy, their families, caregivers, and friends. Their information and referral program offers education about the many different types of seizures as well as the treatment options that are available. They also offer in-home service coordination as well as counseling and advocacy. They have a parent support group as well as a teen support group, and they offer recreational opportunities for the entire family throughout the year so that children with epilepsy can meet other children with epilepsy. In addition, they provide educational programs in the school setting for children of all ages, as well as faculty and bus driver in-service training programs. They also offer professional in-service trainings for businesses. Since epilepsy can strike anyone, at any age, at any time, it's important for all people to know appropriate first aid for seizures.
- Have there been any great strides made or medical advances in treatment in recent years?
The availability of new medications arising from ongoing research has benefitted many people with epilepsy. The new medications provide more treatment options, allowing physicians to tailor treatments more precisely for people with epilepsy (e.g. seizure type, other medications, age, gender, other medical conditions, etc). In addition, there has been an increased awareness of the importance of quality of life, not just seizure frequency/severity.
- How can our readers make a donation to the local Epilepsy Foundation?
The Epilepsy Foundation of NENY accepts donations of any amount. Donations can be mailed to: Epilepsy Foundation, 3 Washington Square, Albany, NY 12205. For more information on our golf tournament or for sponsorship opportunities for any of our upcoming events, please contact the Foundation at (518) 456-7501.