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Knocking Out Parkinson Disease

April 2, 2020
Knocking Out Parkinson Disease

Spotlight on the Parkinson Association of Alberta

Parkinson disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disease that affects more than 100,000 Canadians and their families. It affects the body’s production of dopamine, a chemical that transmit signals between nerves in the brain. As dopamine-producing cells die, issues with movement start to appear.

The most common symptoms include tremors, rigidity of the muscles, slowness and stiffness, and impaired balance. People with Parkinson disease may also experience fatigue, speech difficulties, sleep problems and other symptoms. As the disease progresses, additional symptoms, such as cognitive changes, depression and difficulty swallowing, may appear. Parkinson disease most often affects older adults (age 60 and older), but it can also occur in people under age 50. The causes of Parkinson disease are not yet known, and there is not yet a cure.

April is Parkinson Awareness Month. We’re shining a spotlight on an organization that is making a difference in the lives of people with Parkinson disease, their care partners and families: the Parkinson Association of Alberta (PAA). For over 40 years, the PAA has provided much-needed support services, education and advocacy, and it raises money to support these activities as well as Parkinson disease research.

Most recently, at the end of February, the PAA brought together about 300 supporters to help “knock out” Parkinson disease at The Main Event, a dazzling fundraiser co-presented by Bayshore Home Health. Dressed in their best attire, guests enjoyed international cuisine, live music and auctions, in addition to five Olympic-style boxing matches, at the luxurious JW Marriott Edmonton ICE District hotel. Ten talented amateur fighters, invited through the PAA’s partnerships with Boxing Alberta and Avenue Boxing, wowed the crowd with their agility and strength.

Canadian professional boxer Jelena Mrdjenovich, currently WBC Featherweight Champion and WBA World Champion, delivered an inspiring keynote speech about healthy living. She also received a community service award. Diane Buchanan and Mark Mercier, committee members for the Buchanan Centre – the PAA’s new headquarters and world-class wellness facility in Edmonton – also received community service awards.

The Bayshore Foundation for Empowered Living, which funds registered charities that support those living with injury, illness or aging, matched their online donations by 50%. In all, the Main Event raised over $63,000 to support the PAA’s activities, including support groups, educational events, a helpline and more.

Boxing might seem like an unexpected theme for a Parkinson disease fundraiser, but there is a connection: research has shown that people with Parkinson disease who participate in exercise programs experience social and physical benefits, says Lana Tordoff, the PAA’s Acting CEO. “The boxing theme provided an opportunity to really elevate the cause and highlight the work that people are doing to support their own health.” (The PAA actually offers boxing classes, along with other wellness programs that focus on physical and cognitive function.)

“The core of what we do on a day-to-day basis is helping people and their families live well with Parkinson’s. Our core programming provides support in the form of support groups and one-on-one family support, over the phone, in person or in the office,” says Brandi La Bonte, Communications & Development Specialist. “We also connect people to resources in their community. Alberta is a big province, so not everyone has access to the same things. Our staff work across seven regions, helping people find local resources, like a yoga program or a driving service. And regardless of where people live, they can call our helpline or take part in our telesupport group.”

The PAA has paused its programs and closed its physical offices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but staff are still reaching out to support clients, who are some of the most vulnerable, says La Bonte. “Three things put people at high risk: age over 65, chronic illness and weakened, compromised immune systems. That applies to most of our clients.”

The PAA has paused its programs and closed its physical offices in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but staff are still reaching out to support clients, who are some of the most vulnerable, says La Bonte. “Three things put people at high risk: age over 65, chronic illness and weakened, compromised immune systems. That applies to most of our clients.”

No two cases of Parkinson disease are alike, and the PAA works diligently to provide individualized support for its clients and their families. “What’s really key is having access to support that is as unique as the person with Parkinson’s,” says Tordoff. “Helping our clients access support that’s not one-size-fits-all, at the time they need it, makes what we do unique and really special.”

April is Parkinson Awareness Month! To learn more about the Parkinson Association of Alberta, visit parkinsonassociation.ca.

How to get involved

Connect with your local Bayshore office or clinic, and help them support charities in your community. Thank you for your generosity!

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Ways to take action

  • Participate
  • Donate
  • Volunteer

Our charity partners

Proud Supporter of Alzheimer Society
Canadian Red Cross
Proud Supporter of Alzheimer Society
Caregivers Alberta
Youth Haven
Wesley
We Are Young
Victoria Hospice
OpenLab
The Phoenix Centre for Children & Families
The Mark Preece Family House
Surrey Hospice Society
St. Joseph's Hospice Sarnia-Lambton
St. John Ambulance
Silver Harbour Centre
River Valley Cancer Support Group
QEII Health Sciences Centre Foundation
Parkinson Association of Alberta
Operation Friendship Seniors Society
Ontario Brain Injury Association
MS Society of Canada
Make Children Better Now
Lisaard and Innisfree Hospices
Legion National Foundation
Lanark County Interval House and Community Support
Lakeshore General Hospital Foundation
Jack.org
Hospice Wellington
Hospice Prince Edward
Hospice Greater Saint John
Hospice Southeast New Brunswick
Hospice Fredericton
Good Neighbours Active Living Centre
The Food Bank of York Region
Eden Food for Change
The Dorothy Ley Hospice
Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region
Cystic Fibrosis Canada
Connected in Motion
Community Living Central York
Community Home Support Lanark County
Children's Link
Hospice Cornwall
Candlelighters Simcoe
Canadian Cancer Society
Brain Injury Association of Windsor & Essex County
Blue Door Soup Kitchen
Beth Donovan Hospice
Alberta Cancer Foundation
Rural Ottawa South Support Services (ROSSS)