Parkinson’s program raises awareness in Carson City
Special to the Appeal
A few months ago the Carson City Parkinson’s Awareness and Advocacy Group took part in a program called Sidekicks. This event brought together people with Parkinson’s with youth between 10 and 14 years old. They learned about each other and together completed thematic art projects over a weekend. The collaboration brought about a genuine and quite impressive appreciation of the other generation by each participant. It was so beautiful to see young and older collaborating on art projects that gave meaning to their newly found friendships.
Randy, a person with Parkinson’s, summed up the experience for most when he told me, “I no longer worry about the future.” He was so impressed by the maturity, respect, insightfulness, and substance of the youth he worked side-by-side with that weekend. One of the youth said she never thought an older person would be interested in what she thought. However, this experience proved the opposite. One young man said, “I discovered that adults can be pretty cool.”
After a few rounds of Laughter Yoga at the beginning of the first session, a person with Parkinson’s picked a youth to be their partner. There were two or three pairs sitting together at each table. The tables were full of art supplies to be shared with everyone. After a brief lesson, the pairs had about 30 minutes to complete a related art project together.
After teaching a lesson and the ensuing art project would get underway, I walked around the room and caught parts of engaged conversations, laughter, and encouragement, I felt so hopeful they were all getting something from the experience. All around the room I saw enthusiasm, creativity, patience, and inspiration. There was a palpable sense of unity and mutual respect between these different generations.
In one of the thank you notes to the sponsors, a young girl named Addison summed up what most of the youth kept saying at the end, “Thank you so much for putting this amazing program together! It was amazing to learn about someone else! I had so much fun. My partner was so kind. We shared so many stories. I want to do it again! Thank you!”
Another young girl named Aspen wrote, “Thank you so much for putting on this program! It was so much fun and we should have it more often. I loved learning about the people with Parkinson’s because they are so sweet and funny and we have so much in common. Thank you so much!”
The adults with Parkinson’s shared similar thoughts. One person with Parkinson’s said “Thank you for helping with the program. It helped me learn something new about Parkinson’s disease. I even made new friends while I was here. Thank you.” Others said the workshop “exceeded their expectations,” and “The kids were very polite and a lot of fun!”
My favorite comment was something a person with Parkinson’s showed me the youth wrote on the back of his participation certificate. The young girl wrote, “You are one of many that I will remember for the rest of my life. Thank you (with a bright hand drawn heart).” When the man showed me this he had tears well up in his eyes.
The Sidekicks program is put together by the Davis Phinney Foundation for Parkinson’s in collaboration with Lundbeck. Reno was chosen as a pilot site for the program. The goal of Sidekicks is to help youth gain a better understanding of people who are different from them, particularly adults with Parkinson’s. Through a bit of education on the varying facets of Parkinson’s disease, they collaborate on storytelling projects using art.
My wife Lily and I were involved in the program in its early days. We helped edit the curriculum and were later selected as leaders for one of four nationwide pilot programs (also run in Chicago, San Diego, and Boulder). We partnered with Nicole Mueller, with the Veterans Administration in Reno and the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA). Nicole recruited the youth participants (mostly Girl Scouts). We gathered the people with Parkinson’s from Gardnerville, Carson City, and Reno. Nicole taught the youth aspects of the curriculum as well as introduced the three art projects they all did. It was my job to start the interactions off with a little Laughter Yoga to break the ice and get everyone feeling great. As each lesson unfolded I would teach the Parkinson’s aspect of the curriculum.
Brian and Lily Reedy lead a Parkinson’s support group in Carson City and are both volunteer ambassadors for the Davis Phinney Foundation. Brian was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2010.