CHAMPs > Parkinson's CHAMP
December 2013 - Team Forever Young
The first few weeks were probably the most terrifying and depressing of my life. I had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and I thought my life was over. After my initial reaction, I began to read and listen and talk to others who shared my affliction. From them, I learned so much, building the foundation upon which I could live my life as normally and fruitfully as I desired.
First of all, I have to acknowledge my amazing wife Nina (43 years), my fantastic (she is the best) doctor Vicki Shanker at Beth Israel, Michael J. Fox whose books were so inspirational, and my “army” of friends and family who came at the beginning and are still there for me and for the cause. One day, Nina came to me and told me about the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. We looked at photos and read testimonials and we were hooked. The name for our team came easily. My last name being Young, I will be “Forever Young.” We began to raise funds by getting our friends and family to donate and find others in their lives to donate as well. The results were amazing, beyond anything we could have imagined and TEAM FOREVER YOUNG was on its way.
A funny incident occurred the day of our first Walk. We were charged with energy and excitement and I couldn’t wait to get to the Park. My brother had printed up team t-shirts for everyone to wear. My son and daughter-in-law and I brought them to the Park and we arrived before anyone else. In our fundraising, we had received considerable donations from Jerry and Susan Storm. Nina and I had no idea who they were nor did anyone else we asked. When Nina finally called them, we found out that they were from Hawaii. Jerry had just had a Deep Brain Stimulation surgery. They were going to be vacationing in New York, so they decided to attend the Walk. My son, his wife and I were sitting on a bench, wearing our t-shirts and waiting for our family to arrive when we were tapped on the shoulder by the Storms. We learned that they chose to join our team because of the name and their love for Bob Dylan who wrote the song. Jerry turned out to be an inspiring gentleman who taught me how much one could learn from others with PD. About half an hour later, the team gathered for the start of the Walk……75 strong. Standing in the midst of 75 people who had chosen to give up a Saturday to pay tribute to ME, to honor ME, to raise funds in my name was and is the most humbling and yet wonderful feeling you can ever imagine. My brother and his family, my children and their children (and their dog), cousins, friends and their friends…..they came from everywhere and I was overwhelmed.
We have been involved with the Unity Walk for several years now and it has become a part of our lives. My favorite part of the experience is the thank you reception held the night before the Walk for top fundraising teams, longstanding volunteers, sponsors and Parkinson’s foundations. In a more intimate setting, I have been able to meet people, some of whom have done incredible and amazing things, in spite of their being far more advanced in their disease progression than I am. The conversations were inspiring (I keep using that word but it says it all) and wonderful. From them, I learned and continue to learn that you can do anything, experience anything, and live a full and wonderful l life……..even with PD.