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Unbillable hours: Going Walkabout

When Paul Trinkoff laces up his Walkabout Abilities shoes, it’s not just because he’s president-elect of the sponsoring organization.

Paul Trinkoff (in hat) is president-elect of Abilities Network’s board of directors. He is shown at last year’s Walkabout Abilities with, from left, former President Michael S. Harris, current President Tracy L. Pruitt and CEO Lee Ann Kingham.

For him, it’s personal.

Trinkoff, an attorney at Miles & Stockbridge P.C., has a son who was diagnosed with epilepsy at age 2. None of the usual treatments seemed to help. Finally, Trinkoff found a doctor at the Johns Hopkins Hospital who offered an alternative treatment he was willing to try.

At the time, Trinkoff said, Hopkins was one of only two places in the U.S. to offer the ketogenic diet, an ultra-precise and strictly monitored high-fat, low-carbohydrate regimen that, in some cases, can help reduce and even prevent otherwise intractable seizures. By age 7, Trinkoff’s son no longer had seizures and was weaned off the “keto” diet.

His son’s treating physician was a board member at Abilities Network, the Towson-based nonprofit that hosts Walkabout Abilities each year.

“I had a personal reason to want to get involved,” Trinkoff said. Plus, “a very good friend of mine was president. He did and still does swear by the quality of what this organization does.”

Fellow board member Leete Garten, of Fedder & Garten P.A., could tell Trinkoff’s story in reverse. Garten was the child: he began having seizures as a 4-year-old, and was helped by the organization that is now the Abilities Network. Partially from gratitude, Garten’s father, veteran attorney Herbert S. Garten, joined the organization.

“[Being a board member] is also a connection that I’m also able to carry on with my father,” Leete Garten said.

His personal experiences also help him in his work: “In estate planning, I have a lot of opportunities to sit down and plan for the [client’s] future and often times these families may have children with special needs,” he said.

Abilities Network grew out of The Epilepsy Association of Maryland, which was incorporated in 1964 and, over several decades, greatly expanded its mission. The Abilities Network was separately incorporated in 2000 but “continues to work hand-in-hand with our sister organization, the Epilepsy Foundation of the Chesapeake Region,” according to a history of the organization on the network’s website.

The network is holding its seventh annual Walkabout Abilities fundraiser at Goucher College in Towson on Sunday, Sept. 22. The 1.5-mile fun walk starts at 9:30, with registration beginning an hour earlier. Registration is $15 ($10 for children ages 3-12), and teams are encouraged to raise pledge money; all proceeds go to the Abilities Network. The event drew around 300 people and raised $50,000 last year.

The half-day event offers entertainment—a disc jockey, a moon bounce and face-painting— plus a light breakfast and Baskin Robbins ice cream (board member Sam Coleman has a Baskin Robbins store in Potomac).

The Abilities Network served more than 13,000 Maryland residents last year and has six major service areas, focusing on epilepsy; autism; employment and life-skills training for people with disabilities; “Healthy Families Baltimore County,” which serves expectant and new parents; “Project ACT,” which fosters inclusion of children of all abilities in community settings; and a “Senior Services” program to support the health and wellbeing of older individuals.

The services often have no fee, Trinkoff said. Abilities Network’s income is subsidized by the state, grants and fundraisers like Walkabout Abilities, which they also hope will promote awareness of their organization.

“This is really an organization full of do-gooders,” Trinkoff said. “These are people who quite frankly could make more money or do other things with their lives, but they choose to do this because the efficacy of what they do is very high.”