After Bill Winslow and his wife made the 2,800-mile move from Philadelphia, PA, to San Francisco, CA, Bill never thought his life would change the day he walked into a YMCA. “I wanted to join so I could use the pool when an employee said, ‘if you don’t mind, I noticed your tremor and I want to tell you about our Parkinson’s Exercise Program.’”
Bill had been living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) a few years at that point, but the stress from the non-stop movement on the right side of his body had already taken its toll. Between Achilles surgery, elbow and hip pain, arthritis and weight gain, Bill felt sorry for himself. However, moving to California and going on disability sparked something. He decided to “half-heartedly try.”
It became clear that Bill was not capable of doing anything half-way. Bill regularly showed up to the YMCA’s Parkinson’s Exercise Program on Mondays for spin class, and on Wednesdays and Fridays for power moves. “I was in love,” Bill said. “It taught me that I wasn’t alone. I began moving, but the people in my classes helped fuel my battery, even on the days I wasn’t there.”
Bill has always pushed himself, so it wasn’t long before he found something that would give him a new way to fight back. Bill found Freddy Silva, who manages three Rock Steady Boxing programs in California. “I met a life-long friend,” Bill said. Through boxing, Bill lost 40 pounds and has been fighting Parkinson’s in a gym three times a week since 2016.
As Bill began playing larger roles in his PD community, he eventually found Moving Day San Jose. “The Moving Day saying, ‘people who move change the world’ is so true,” Bill said. “Parkinson’s wants you to sit back, sit on a sofa and curl up. We need to get up, get out and move. If I hadn’t done just that, I would have never met my new family who changed my life.”
“I learned to fight back and now I needed to give back,” he said. “Through Moving Day, I was able to give back to the community.” Bill began getting active in fundraising and raising PD awareness. He volunteered at Parkinson’s Foundation events and became a PD advocate, even speaking at Moving Day. “It was the first time after being diagnosed that I held a mic to speak to a crowd and I didn’t care who saw my tremor.”
Bill will be attending his third Moving Day in 2019. “Going to Moving Day is like meeting family members you didn’t know you had,” Bill said. At his first Moving Day, Bill and his team “Rock Steady Fighters” came in second place for most funds raised. Last year, they won first place. Bill has raised $10,615 for the Parkinson’s Foundation and his team has raised $51,602.
Bill was fighting, fundraising and advocating, but he wanted to hold himself accountable to the PD community in a different way. He was astonished to hear that 60,000 people are diagnosed with PD every year, which averages to someone being newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the U.S. every nine minutes — or 160 people per day. To spread awareness about these numbers, Bill began completing 160 pushups a day during April’s Parkinson’s Awareness month.
“I wanted to raise awareness for Parkinson’s in my own way,” Bill said. “If one newly diagnosed person saw me fighting back with push-ups and it gets them moving, plugged into a support group or exercise class, then I’m thrilled”
In April of 2018, Bill and his Moving Day team were invited to do Push-Ups for Parkinson’s before a San Francisco Giants baseball game and will do so again in 2019. “It will be one of the best memories of my life,” Bill said.
Bill’s Moving Day efforts, dedication to bettering his PD community and PD advocacy earned him the “Volunteer of the Year” award at the first-ever Parkinson’s Foundation Volunteer Summit.
As Bill prepares to leave his west coast PD community, he is more than ready to build a new PD family in the east coast in order to be closer to his 23-year-old son, father-in-law who is battling his own health complications and the rest of his family and friends. Bill’s 21-year-old daughter will be staying on the west coast while going to school.
The Rock Steady boxing instructor is ready to fight and is looking forward to meeting new people and making Moving Day Southeastern Pennsylvania his new passion project.
“Every person that comes up to me at Moving Day inspires me,” Bill said. “I want to tell every person with PD I meet that we are not in this alone.”