GREENVILLE — A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease is never good news. The degenerative disease cases movement-related problems such as tremors, stiffness and difficulty walking. And that’s in the early stages. Later, cognitive functions may be effected, followed by dementia. A host of other symptoms accompany the disease, none of them pleasant.
Parkinson’s presents most often in older patients, with the lion’s share afflicting those over 50 years old.
Fortunately, new advances in Parkinson’s treatment are discovered made every day, thanks in large part to research efforts at places like the Van Andel Institute in Grand Rapids. Research costs money, however. That’s where groups like the Support Group for Persons with Parkinson’s Disease in Montcalm County come in.
That group, which meets the second Sunday of every month at the Greenville Area Senior Citizens Center, regularly hosts fundraisers to raise money for the institute and other research organizations.
The group’s next fundraiser is slated for 5 to 8 p.m. Monday, April 8, at Mancino’s restaurant, 218 S. Lafayette St. in Greenville. During those hours, 35 percent of all in-house food and beverage purchases will go toward the ongoing research at Van Andel Institute.
According to support group facilitator Becky Hansen, previous efforts along this same line have raised as much as $500. The group’s golf outings — the big money-makers — typically bring in around $5,000.
“I didn’t really set a goal amount for this one, because I have no idea what we’ll raise,” Hansen said. “I’d like to raise as much as we can.”
For Hansen, the effort is a personal matter — it was five years ago she received her own Parkinson’s diagnosis. On April 16, she will be in the hospital undergoing a relatively new surgical procedure designed to minimize some of the effects of the disease.
Every new advance made by research teams like the one at Van Andel Institute equate to a future just a little brighter for Hansen and other Parkinson’s sufferers. This is just one of the many topics covered at the monthly support group meetings
“We have speakers come in every month,” Hansen said. “Mostly from St. Mary’s in Grand Rapids and mostly in the neuroscience area.”
The group also discusses issues commonly faced by both Parkinson’s sufferers and their caregivers. By sharing tales of their own problems, members begin to understand their issues are not altogether unique and most have solutions. The group also hosts potlucks, plays games and takes part in other social activities.
“We help each other figure what to do and how to deal with things,” Hansen said.
The fundraiser also hits home with Mancino’s owner Debbie Sellers, whose father-in-law is afflicted with Parkinson’s. It was through him that Sellers was introduced to Hansen.
Mancino’s regularly hosts Monday evening fundraisers for deserving area groups, typically bringing in between $500 to $1,000.
“It’s usually a nice sum,” Sellers said. “It just depends on how good they are about getting the word out and how much advertising they do.”
For more information on the upcoming fundraiser or the Parkinson’s support group, call Hansen at (616) 548-5428.