Teams are at the core of the Parkinson’s Unity Walk and they come in many sizes with various affiliations – family teams, corporate teams, and support group teams. Young Onset Support Group of Westchester/Bronx is a great example of a support group that meets all year round AND participates together in PUW. This is their 12th year at the Unity Walk!
PUW Event Director
In March 2004, George and Norma Jensen, both of whom have Parkinson’s disease, recognized the need for a support group for those with young onset Parkinson’s disease in the Westchester, New York area. In January 2005, they secured a meeting room at White Plains Hospital, advertised with neurologists, and waited. After four months a few members showed up, then a few more. Early members included Anthony Fente, Bob Roach, Anne Dowling, Janet Stram and Alex Abraham. We invited guest speakers to keep us informed and started planning social events to have some fun. We developed a trusting, supportive environment where our voices could be heard.
The group now has over 40 members. Both people living with Parkinson’s and care givers are welcome to join us. Although we are considered a “young on-set” group we don’t turn anyone away as long as they are young at heart. Our meetings cover a variety of topics including latest treatments, medications, symptoms, strategies for coping with work, sleep, life. All subjects are open for discussion at our monthly meetings. We have formed true friendships and know that we can pick up the phone and talk to someone who understands our unique challenges. We are actively involved with the Parkinson’s community and share information and resources.
The first year we joined the Parkinson’s Unity Walk, Norma made a beautiful banner and left room at the bottom to add in subsequent years. The banner has accompanied our group now for 12 Unity Walks. It’s a reminder to keep up the fight, to support each other, and take care of ourselves.
We are proud of our group and the amazing networking that has placed our team (without any corporate sponsorship) in the top ten teams nationally for a number of years. Last year, we had 21 registered walkers with many more joining us at the Walk and together, raised $17,314. At first many of us were shy about asking friends and relatives for donations. What we began to realize is that people want to help.
Many of us have increased our donations by getting our social media savvy children involved. One example is Janet and Danny Stram’s son Scott who, year after year with the help of social media, collects thousands of dollars for his mother’s cause.
Alex Abraham, active member and facilitator of our group, discovered a talent for fundraising. He begins fundraising for the Unity Walk in the fall and gives anyone and everyone he encounters the opportunity to contribute. Alex’s philosophy is that it makes people feel good to donate and he has been very successful obtaining face to face donations. He always has donation forms on him, keeps records of everyone who donates and contacts them from year to year.
Another aspect of the Unity Walk is the opportunity it affords for family and friends to come out and support us as we walk for a cure. The atmosphere is positive, the walk through Central Park pleasant, the solidarity evident. Living with Parkinson’s disease is challenging but the day of the Unity Walk is always about hope.
Alex Abraham, Team Captain and Anne Dowling, Team Member
Young Onset Support Group of Westchester/Bronx