Living with young-onset Parkinson’s disease (YOPD) while raising three kids with my wife has offered a few unique challenges and a superabundance of blessings. Like so many others experience, my Parkinson’s rigidity, tremors, and balance issues make daily life tasks more taxing for me. It can be easy to allow these symptoms to make me sit on the sidelines of life. I’m sure many others have felt the same way.
I have come to understand, however, that we were not made to sit on the bench. We were created to actively engage in this life, making an impact in our own small but significant way.
When my wife and I told our kids of my diagnosis, they were in ninth, seventh and third grade. Our oldest daughter jumped right in, volunteering with the Parkinson’s Foundation Minnesota and Dakotas Chapter. She inspired us to participate as a family in Moving Day Twin Cities. That day, we became more aware of other opportunities to connect and volunteer. By getting involved, we have found that volunteering connects us to others, is good for our minds and bodies, and has brought fun and fulfillment to our lives.
Several years later, I watched my youngest daughter invite her school friends to cheer on the participants at Moving Day. Her cheering motivated me to keep going and serve in my own way. The late Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it is those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” People of all ages and ability are able to volunteer and make a difference in the Parkinson’s community.
While Moving Day was the beginning of my volunteering journey, and becoming more active in the PD community, my advocacy has led me down some interesting paths, including fundraising and evaluating grant proposals. Over the years I’ve helped organize a Parkinson’s Casino Night, Trivia Night, and most recently started a Parkinson’s Awareness Day at Target Field with the Minnesota Twins (Major League Baseball). As a U.S. Army veteran, this past fall I had an opportunity to volunteer on The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs’ Parkinson’s Research Program as a consumer advocate participating in the evaluation of research applications.
As I look back on my journey with PD so far, I’m so glad that I didn’t sit on the sidelines and instead jumped right into an amazing journey that has helped me make new friendships across the nation.
In The Lorax, Dr. Seuss wrote, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” Your hearts, hands and voices are urgently needed. So, how will you choose to support the mission of the Parkinson’s Foundation to improve care and advance research toward a cure?
There are many ways to get involved with your local Moving Day. Learn more about how you can become a Parkinson’s Foundation Ambassador.