CHAMPs > Parkinson's CHAMP

August 2011 - Shakin Down Parkinson's

Written by Jane Denmark:

As we entered Central Park on the unseasonably cold Saturday morning, April 16, 2011, a delightful lady drove up and offered my husband and me a ride on her expedient golf cart. In a few minutes we were delivered to the registration site! With tears in my eyes, I thanked this gracious Parkinson’s Unity Walk (PUW) volunteer . My tears were from the heart-felt emotion that I was participating in something bigger than myself! A cure for Parkinson’s Disease (PD) will be found! And, I intend to be part of that process.

Just a short time ago, I did not know that PUW even existed. PD was an abstract topic in the high school anatomy class I taught. But now, PD was not just a topic for a student project.  PD was restructuring my life! As a teacher, I fought to gain some control. Believing that the steps of a good person are ordained, I struggled to make sense of this senseless disease. My conclusion: Learn, Pray, Laugh, Help, Live - steps that change daily or even hourly.

I learned of PUW from my husband, who had been informed by a colleague. After locating the website, I signed up to create a team and gingerly approached my children about joining my team. Enthusiastically, my husband, son, daughter, son-in-law, and grandson agreed! Emilie, my daughter, named us Shakin Down Parkinson’s. I loved the name! Gingerly, and with much hesitation, our goal was set at $3000 - a huge amount, given the economic situation of my small town. And, I have never been a fundraiser! But, I read the tips on the PUW website. Following the PUW guidelines, I sent an e-mail to most of the contacts in my address book. Within days, people starting donating funds! I was amazed! I thought, maybe I can reach this goal. The mayor invited me to speak to the city council. The mother of a former student informed the newspaper about my efforts. A “Get- to-Know” article featured my struggle and efforts to raise money for PUW. Every few days, another donation was made.  Alpha Kappa Delta, my teacher sorority, voted to give and individual members (retired and young) supported me! I was amazed. Believing that God helps those who help themselves, I planned a yard sale. A thunderstorm hit that morning, but people arrived anyway. Even a former student and her mother showed up to make a purchase and make a donation. Family members pitched in. Emilie, my wonderful daughter, approached her office managers with her idea of a “Dress Down” fundraiser. Approved! And these people had never met me, but they knew people with PD. Donations poured in! Tears came to my eyes as I read the e-mail informing me of the donations! For you see, I live in south Alabama and Emilie lives in Atlanta! She will tell you her part of the story!

Why did I choose PUW? The scientist part of me appreciates the format for disposing funds. I appreciate that the foundations that benefit from the Unity Walk must write a grant for funds and are held accountable. I also believe that the combined efforts of different perspectives will expedite the “finding a cure for PD” process. So, together my team raised just over $5400! Incredible! AND, 100% of that money goes to finding a cure for PD. My struggle continues, but with the support of my family and friends, my life is full as I continue to Learn, Pray, Laugh, Help, Live.

Written by Emilie, Jane’s Daughter:

As anxiety tends to run in my family, when my mother’s hand first began to shake, I thought to myself, “I wish she’d get control over her nerves. Just get a grip!” Now that Mom has been diagnosed with PD, I look back on those memories with a bit of guilt. Guilt, however, is not what motivates me to help my Mom and others in the fight against PD. Mom is my best friend, and my love for her is my primary motivation. Additionally, I see how her own strive to fight PD has encouraged and helped others. She reaches out to members in the community who have PD and offers her encouragement. She started a PD support group in our hometown. She is passionate about educating others about PD. If she can do so much with such a senseless disease, how can I not throw my hat in the ring?

I work in a large law firm, McCalla Raymer, LLC, based in Atlanta, and I approached my boss about having a fundraiser for the walk. The firm agreed. Thus, for a $5 donation, any employee in any of our offices could “dress down” (aka wear jeans) for a day. The firm then matched the individual employee’s donation (and then some!). Not only did the money pour in, but questions and stories of co-workers who were affected by PD did, as well. One co-worker walked in my office and burst in to tears as she told me that her father has PD and has struggled to be open about it. Following in my mother’s footsteps, I listened and offered my encouragement to her and brought materials back to her from PUW.

My mother has an unmatched joy for life. She gardens (or “plays in the dirt,” as she calls it – her “therapy”) as much as possible. She gets on the floor and colors with her 2 year old grandson. She prepares meals for neighbors who are ill. She holds regular teas for her friends. She is a voracious reader and helped to start a book club. She is an incredibly gifted teacher and educator. She travels to visit her children, to go to concerts, to Paris, a hike in the Grand Canyon… Nothing, including PD, will stop Mom. PD will make her (and all of us affected by PD) more creative in determining how to live with it, but it won’t stop her. I believe that, if we continue to work together, not only can we keep PD from slowing us down, but we can stop it!