A dinner next month will raise funds to help a local nonprofit organization provide exercise, education and support to people with Parkinson’s disease.
“An Evening of Hope,” a party featuring a four-course meal with wine pairings, will begin at 6 p.m. July 14 at the Greencroft Club. Proceeds will benefit the Parkinson’s Activity and Resource Center, or PARC, which provides Rock Steady Boxing instruction, game nights, social outings and support groups.
The Rock Steady Boxing program offers noncontact boxing and exercise training tailored for people with Parkinson’s to help enhance balance, strength, aerobic fitness and cognition.
Seventeen classes meet each week for about 50 active clients, said Sarah Lincoln, president of the Parkinson’s Activity and Resource Center. Lincoln is certified as an ISSA personal trainer, a Rock Steady Boxing head coach and an urban poling instructor and is the owner of Rock Steady Boxing’s Charlottesville affiliate.
Lincoln said the hard work pays off in progress, and she welcomes moments when class members recognize achievements large and small. One person may become able to walk steadily and safely enough to go on a family vacation with confidence, while another may regain the ability to bathe without help.
Balance is a common challenge for people with the neurodegenerative disorder, which affects about 1 million Americans. Exercise offers numerous opportunities for improving balance and avoiding falls and injuries.
“A lot of times with Parkinson’s, there’s a shuffle, so they’re not lifting their feet or swinging their arms,” Lincoln said. “That’s a tripping hazard, so we work on big movements here. There is a tendency to fall because they lose their balance.”
Learning safer ways to fall can help prevent sidelining injuries. So can taking a new approach to standing.
“We break the process of standing up into different stations,” which builds confidence. Lincoln said. She said one class member told her, “I can play with my grandchildren for the first time, because I can get on the floor with them.”
Some milestones are priceless.
“One gentleman only gets out of the house to go to this class, and his wife says she only sees him smile when he is here,” Lincoln said.
“An Evening of Hope” is the first major fundraiser for the center, which transitioned to nonprofit status in March.
The festive meal begins with a charcuterie board served with Villagio Pinot Grigio from Italy. A sweet potato bisque with crab meat will follow.
Diners may choose filet mignon or tofu fillet as an entrée; each comes with herb-roasted fingerling potatoes and steamed green beans. The course is paired with Chateau Belleveuve Lancon Bordeaux 2010.
Dark chocolate cremeux with seafoam candy, miso caramel, strawberry chantilly and shaved Mexican chocolate will be accompanied by Masia de la Laz Cuz Brut from Spain.
Everyone is welcome, and one need not be a Parkinson’s patient or family member to attend.
Part of the center’s mission is to provide opportunities for people with Parkinson’s to socialize, and one such event is coming up at 5 p.m. Tuesday, when participants will meet for dinner and fellowship at Kardinal Hall.
Having a peer group that gets it is important. “They’re with other people with Parkinson’s, so if they’re having a bad day, people know what they’re going through,” Lincoln said.
That aspect also is important in the center’s peers-only classes.
“Only people who have Parkinson’s disease are working out,” Lincoln said. “We’re not in a gym with a 25-year-old guy lifting 500 pounds. They are all fighting the same disease, and they’re fighting it together.”
Lincoln said Parkinson’s disease is the nation’s fastest-growing neurological condition, with almost 90,000 people diagnosed each year. “Every six minutes, somebody is diagnosed,” Lincoln said.
A specific cause for Parkinson’s disease remains elusive, as does a cure. Men tend to be diagnosed at about 1.5 times the rate of women. Although many people are in their 60s or older at diagnosis, early-onset cases can affect people as early as their teens or 20s.
“Every person is different,” Lincoln said. “No one has the exact same symptoms as someone else.”
Patients can contact the center as soon as they’ve been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease; details are available from firstname.lastname@example.org.
The process begins with an intake form, which includes a medical release form for the person’s neurologist or primary care physician to complete. Doctors’ feedback helps tailor exercise training to a person’s individual strengths and concerns. An assessment follows, in which an hour to 90 minutes is spent getting to know the person and conducting balance and strength drills and cognitive tests to determine which class level is best.
“We want the client to be challenged, but not overwhelmed,” Lincoln said.
Lincoln said the center’s clientele includes a wide range of ages and backgrounds. Classmates include lawyers, nurses, academics, accountants, military members and landscapers, among others.
“If you start exercise as soon as possible after diagnosis, the better it will be,” Lincoln said.
People who can’t attend on July 14 but wish to make donations can do so through the website at the-parc.org or mail checks to The Parkinson’s Activity and Resource Center, 1885 Seminole Trail, Suite 101, Charlottesville, VA 22901.
The meal is $100 per person, and all proceeds will benefit the 501©(3) nonprofit organization. Dinner reservations may be made at www.the-parc.org/events; if possible, save your seat by July 5. For reservations and details, go to the-parc.org, or email email@example.com.