Ara Parseghian still going strong at 93 for the fight that means so much to him

Published: Jun. 13, 2016 at 4:32 PM EDT
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Notre Dame football coaching legend Ara Parseghian may be slowing down physical but he still has that incredible wit---especially when you ask him about his most recent birthday.

"May 21st---39 years old. if you believe that, I have a bridge I want to sell ya," Ara says with his signature laugh.

At 93-years-old, the man who led Notre Dame to national championships in 1966 and 1973, believes he still has plenty of work to do. The goal of the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation is find a cure for the Niemann-Pick Type C Disease, which killed three of his grandchildren.

"When I first started out, I wanted a silver bullet," Ara explains. "I wanted a cure for the children immediately. But you have to go step-by-step-by-step.

Step-by-step they've come. Parseghian gives a ton of credit to Greg Crawford, the former Dean of the College of Science at Notre Dame.

"We were struggling a little bit and it was like he dropped out of heaven," Ara said of Crawford, who is now the President at Miami (of Ohio). He had science technology. He was educated perfectly for what our needs were. He was energetic and road his bike back and forth across the United States and gave us a shot in the arm."

And last month came a big announcement that the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation was making the move from Arizona to Notre Dame.

"To be able to be associated with [Notre Dame] from a fundraising capacity, to be with them with their science departments and the compounds that look very favorable in hopefully finding a cure--it's been dynamic," Ara said.

Ara spoke Monday before the Kelly Cares Foundation annual golf outing hosted by Irish Football Coach Brian Kelly.

"Any time the university of Notre Dame can take over something that is so close to Ara's heart--Niemann Pick and his family, it just seems so right and to have the power of Notre Dame behind it, I know Ara feels really great about it," Kelly said.

And before Monday's outing. Kelly Cares presented Ara and his wife Katie a check for $10,000 for the foundation.

"Every day is important to those kids and those families affected about it," explains Paqui Kelly. "It's important--very important."

Ara believes that day-by-day, they are making the strides to find a cure.

"We've learned a lot about it," Ara said of Niemann Pick Type C. "When we first started we knew for little about it. Now we can talk intelligently about it.

Ara said in the old days there wasn't even a test that could determine someone had Niemann Pick Type C. It could only be figured out by process of elimination. Now, families can call the foundation and the proper information can be passed along to figure out if that's what a child is dealing with.

"We shave high hopes and this fall I think we could have some breakthroughs," Parseghian said.

What a national championship that would be.