GREENVILLE — No one knows the heartbreak and emotional trauma that accompany a diagnoses of Parkinson’s disease better than those afflicted with the malady and those who serve as caretakers. One of the strongest defenses against symptom-induced malaise, according to Parkinson’s sufferer Becki Hansen, is knowing you’re not in it alone.
When she was diagnosed with the disease about five years ago she was already familiar with its symptoms; her father had been dealing with Parkinson’s effects for years.
Last year the Greenville resident started the Montcalm County Parkinson’s Support Group for other Parkinson’s sufferers. At that first meeting, 18 people showed up. In the ensuing months, that number has swelled to 40. Obviously, the group is supporting a local need.
“We have a meeting the second Thursday of every month from 12:30 to 2:30 p.m. at the Greenville Senior Center,” Hansen said. “We have a potluck and have speakers come in from St. Mary’s Hospital. We do sessions with the people with Parkinson’s and the caretakers. We also have group discussions and various exercises.
“This is a very good thing, for people who have Parkinson’s to be among other people with the same thing.”
The group is open to residents of Montcalm County and surrounding areas.
Jim Hansen, Becki’s husband, lends a hand with some of the promotional correspondence the group produces.
“The Montcalm County Parkinson’s Support Group was created to help people who have Parkinson’s disease better understand the disease, what medications and treatments are available, exercises and nutrition, and how to express their concerns about PD,” Jim said. “The support group was also created to help the care givers understand and cope with PD.”
In addition to the monthly meetings, the group also hosts fundraisers to raise money for Parkinson’s research.
On Aug. 25, beginning at 9 a.m., the group will host an 18-hole golf scramble at Glenkerry Golf Course in Greenville, followed by a dinner, raffle and auction.
A similar, though smaller, event held last year raised about $6,000. That outing and the one planned for this year were organized by Sydney resident, Shannon Kilduff, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at 39.
“We call it Putt for Parkinson’s,” Kilduff said. “Last year the money we raised went to the Michael J. Fox Foundation. Then we found out the Fox Foundation was funding the Van Andel Institute, so this year we’re just giving the money directly to them.”
Kilduff added that she expected this year’s event will generate about $10,000.
Eleven teams have already signed up for the outing and there are room for about 20 more. Kilduff expects a full roster by the time the event date rolls around.
“A lot of friends and family get involved,” she explained. “Businesses and individuals field teams. We get teams from all over. We’ve really had a huge response.”
This year 18 team spots are available at a cost of $200 per team. All proceeds from the event will benefit Van Andel Institute and the researchers there who each day search for a cure for Parkinson’s disease.
“We’re currently looking for teams and donations from local businesses and individuals,” Hansen said, adding that she expects this year’s event to be even more successful.
“For one thing, last year we only played nine holes,” Hansen said. “This year we’re doing 18.”
For more information about the event or to make a donation, contact Hansen at (616) 548-5428.