CHAMPs > Parkinson's CHAMP

May 2013 - Team Monaco


Ten years ago my left hand began to shake. I thought nothing of it until my head began to shake, too. I was diagnosed with Essential Tremor Disorder and immediately began medication to control - not cure - these tremors.

In April, 2012 my symptoms began to change. Everything began to tremor uncontrollably. My neurologist had me take a DATScan. The results from the DATScan indicated Parkinson's disease.   

My life changed in August, 2012. I began reading all about Parkinson's disease on the internet and started to gather information about this disease. I wondered why it was called a disease since I am not contagious. It was then that I came upon the Unity Walk.

I am a high school teacher and when I went back to work in September, my Principal announced that every Learning Center would participate in a community service project. I had the perfect one - the Unity Walk. I immediately created Team Monaco and registered all of my students on my team as well as some other students, family, and friends. Little did I know how fast my team would grow – 272 registered walkers!

My co-worker came up with the idea of "Pens for Parkinson's" and when I presented it to my students, they jumped at the idea. Lo and behold, our fundraising campaign began. Not only did we sell pens, we provided silver ribbons for everyone to wear to represent what we were doing. We also displayed the letters “P U W” outside my classroom to represent people who supported the Parkinson's Unity Walk by purchasing pens.

Not all of my students were aware of my condition. Those who did know would sometimes ask me questions. I am very proud of them for educating themselves about this disease.  A couple of weeks before the Walk, I told the rest of my students that I have Parkinson's disease. There were hugs, tears, and concerns. It boosted our fundraising efforts and gave new meaning to this endeavor.

Fast forward to the day of the Unity Walk on April 27th. We planned to meet at the Staten Island Ferry at 7:15am. While driving to the Ferry, several thoughts and emotions were stirring. I thought to myself, "Will my team show up?" "It's so early for us to meet at 7:15 a.m. at the Ferry." "I will be so disappointed if nobody shows up."

As I walked into the Ferry terminal there they were.......Team Monaco...........Blue shirts everywhere!!!!!  At 7:15 a.m. on a Saturday morning!!!!!

I was overwhelmed by the appearance of my team waiting for me in the Ferry terminal. We greeted each other with hugs and “good mornings.” We got on the 7:30 Ferry and basically took over the boat by the vastness of our team.

Our train ride up to Central Park was quiet. Everyone was tired and I was just taking in the fact that everyone showed up. I felt so proud of my team.

Commuters on the subway were asking where we were headed with our blue shirts that had “Parkinson's Unity Walk” on the front. I was filled with pride as my team said boldly, "We are headed to Central Park for the Parkinson's Unity Walk."

I just smiled from ear to ear. As we approached Central Park, our energy and enthusiasm were building.  

We couldn't wait to get into the park and "get ready" for the Walk. I have to admit that I had moments during the Walk where I felt that I did not have Parkinson's disease and that I was walking for everyone else. My students were respectful and kind to everyone which made me even more proud. I was thrilled to be walking with my family, my students, their parents, former students, my Assistant Principal, colleagues, and members of my synagogue.

For the past 23 years I have been a high school teacher, and this was the best lesson I ever taught my students.

We look forward to walking again next year.

Rachael Monaco
Team Captain, Team Monaco