Every year, approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, and about 10 million people live with the disease worldwide. The progressive movement disorder affects people's daily lives by disrupting their motor function with tremors and causing cognitive decline and neurological and mental health issues, leaving those suffering isolated.
April was Parkinson's Awareness Month, and to recognize the event, Sarasota's Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson’s hosted its fourth annual "Paint the Town Orange Day," a grassroots outreach campaign when volunteers shared resources with physicians and health care organizations.
This year, the event was held virtually because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Participants donned orange outfits and posed for pictures on social media with the hashtags "neurochallenge" and "paint the town orange," leading people to free resources on the foundation's website. The event gained wide attention, and shed light on the 45 programs Neuro Challenge holds for the community, free of charge.
"Moving the event and our programs virtually was kind of a blessing in disguise for us," says Neuro Challenge chief executive officer Robyn Faucy-Washington. "Since Parkinson's is a movement disorder and affects daily functioning, once you get to a certain stage it can be hard to leave the house. The virtual programs gave us opportunity to help those who are housebound, lack proper transit or live out of town."
Through the help of staff and volunteers, one family particularly benefited from Neuro Challenge's new program for children of those with Parkinson's. The father of the family was recently diagnosed, and his wife became his caregiver. Their son attended the virtual program to find support and come to a better understanding of his father's illness. Soon after, his siblings, who were not as involved in their father's care, joined the sessions from out of town and developed a care plan for their dad.
"The entire family had a tough conversation that they never had before," says Faucy-Washington. "The program was a catalyst for care and for the family to openly talk and address what their father is going through."
Other new groups in the foundation's therapeutic program include a partnership with the Sarasota Ballet called "Joyful Movement Through Parkinson's," where patients can express themselves through movement while doing essential exercises.
Another new program, the laughter program, involves using laughter-inducing games as therapy. Creative writing classes, yoga sessions and meditation are other options. More than 3,000 families receive Neuro Challenge's support every year.
"We had 25 virtual participants in our first session for children of Parkinson's patients, and almost half of them were outside Florida," says Faucy-Washington. "The feedback we have received has been so positive."
The outreach didn't end when April did. On Saturday, June 12, Neuro Challenge will hold its Parkinson's Expo, during which experts from across the country will speak virtually at interactive presentations, free of charge.
"This disease can become overwhelming, emotionally and mentally, too," says Faucy-Washington. "This is why it's critical that people have access to resources to help manage symptoms and find a way to feel like part of their community—connected and pursuing their passions."
For more information about Neuro Challenge Foundation for Parkinson's, click here or call (941) 926-6413.