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Got Parkinson’s? What you CAN do!

Pam Quinn, Mike Achin and Renee Leverrier  at APDA's New England Biennial Conference

Pam Quinn, Mike Achin and Renee LeVerrier at APDA’s New England Regional Biennial Parkinson’s Conference

Recently my wife and I were asked to give a motivational talk at the American Parkinson’s Disease Association’s New England Regional Biennial Parkinson’s conference in Sturbridge, MA. The topic was, “Got Parkinson’s? What you CAN do.” I introduced a video clip we made that played to the song, “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” This was my high school graduation song. I don’t think I really ever listened to the words then. I just wanted my diploma and to start living my life. Today it means so much more. To understand how we got to this point, let’s go back in time a few years.It was the fall of 2009 and I was stunned by my diagnosis of “Parkinson’s disease (PD).” I do not cry very often but that day as we drove home, the tears were running down my cheeks. Are you kidding me!?? I was just 51 years old and I still had a son in college. This surely could not be happening. The truth was, my wife had already diagnosed me. She knew months before my official diagnosis. I did not want to hear it. I lived in denial. So, what if my left hand would not swing while walking? So, what if my left leg dragged a little? So, what if I was losing my balance? So, what if cutting up food and writing was getting harder and harder? It was just age catching up with me. Right??

For me the next few months were horrible. I was scared, angry, and depressed almost every day. I was living my life as if my glass was half empty. Now, let’s fast forward a little. Eventually, I snapped out of my funk and started learning about PD. My wife, through her research, found a walk in NYC coming up called the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. Her hope was that the five of us (we have 3 children, Ben, Danielle, and Zach) would travel to the Walk and learn together as a family what PD was all about. It took a little bit of nudging to get me to go to NYC, but once I said yes, my life was never the same again. Have I mentioned yet how awesome my family is!? Over 50 others joined our family of five in NYC for that first Walk. Our family and friends wanted to support us. They wanted to let us know that we were not in this alone. From that first Unity Walk in 2010, all 50+ in our now signature lime green shirts, Team DominACHIN was born. We were going to fight to help find a cure. To date, Team DominACHIN has raised almost $100,000 for Parkinson’s research.

One of the best things that happened was one day I decided to start living my life as if my glass was half full. I needed to remember that I had a lot of living to do – people to meet, places to go, super bowls to witness, and even a granddaughter to meet (in just a few short weeks!!).

So, now you know why we were invited to speak at the conference. Our message is simple. If we all do some fundraising and talk about PD, we will create a boat load of money for research as well as an avalanche of information to educate the public. There is a saying; “If it is to be, it is up to me.” We all need to find our niche and go for it. Personally, we have found that we can be pretty creative and make almost any activity into a fundraiser. My older son appropriately calls them, “FUNdraisers.”

Washer’s Tournament

  • Annually, we have a Washers Tournament. The object of the game is to toss a 3″ washer in the hole. Teams of two are randomly chosen and by the end of the night, champs are crowned.
  • Each year we hold a raffle and draw the winner in the Patriots parking lot during tailgating. Only 100 tickets are sold at $20 each. We have raffled off a Patriots grill, flat screen TV and an iPad.
  • Even a yearly rock paper scissors tournament which started at a summer cookout at my son’s new house has turned into a fundraiser. He has a local bar as a sponsor for the t-shirts he sells and a Boston bar that hosts it and sponsors koozies for all attendees.
  • Team DominACHIN members have climbed Mt. Washington the last three years.
  • I am a beer pourer at McCoy Stadium. My wife painted me a rock with the Paw Sox logo to hold my tips. Many fans commented on it so I told them they could have it for a PD donation. By the season’s end she had painted many more rocks and I had $250 more dollars for research!

The list goes on and on. Just about any activity can become a fundraiser!

My message to everyone is a simple one. Get involved! I realize that PD affects all of us differently and not everyone can do everything. However, everyone can do something! Do you like to write? Write a blog or an article for your local newspaper. Are you outgoing like me? Go on your local cable TV station to let the public know what PD is all about! Can you walk or use a wheelchair? Find your local APDA walk or attend the mecca of all walks, the Unity Walk in NYC on April 27th. Got family and friends who want to help? You can make a fund raiser out of anything! Collect cans, have a yard sale, host a bake sale at work, etc.

Mt. Washington Climb

Really ambitious? Climb Mt. Washington or try a half marathon. There is a New England Parkinson’s Bike Ride in the fall in Maine. Bikers choose from a 10, 30, 50 or 100 mile course. Besides raising money and awareness for Parkinson’s, your training will get you in great shape! The best thing we can do for ourselves is to exercise.

Got connections? Use them. We asked my friends at the Pawtucket Red Sox for support and this year will be our 4th Annual APDA/Team DominACHIN Night. A PSA on the jumbotron, we all walk on the field, and 50% of the ticket sales goes straight to PD research. You’ll find people are more than willing to help out. Any idea is a good idea. Just take it and put it into action.

Can you imagine if all the members of the Parkinson’s community began bombarding the media with articles and blogs about how PD affects us? We could educate the public and if we all did at least one fundraiser a year, we could raise millions to find a cure!!

I will never stop until a cure is found and I truly believe this will happen in my lifetime. Until then we must continue to raise money and educate the public. UNITE TO FIGHT!! Don’t let PD defeat us; we have to fight back. Please take action now. What a party it will be when a cure is found! If you need help with ideas, feel free to contact me at 508-878-8739, mikeachin@verizon.net or visit Team DominACHIN’s Facebook page.

I hope to meet you all soon!

Mike Achin Team Captain, Team DominACHIN

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