Q. What made you decide to become a PDF Champion?
A. In July 2014, my boyfriend, Jason, and I were in Michigan visiting my parents and decided to go running at a local trail. My Dad accompanied us on the trail, but my Mom ended up staying at home. I know she really wanted to come with all of us to the trail so that she could enjoy the good weather and the scenery, but her Parkinson’s has progressed and she felt that she would have too much trouble walking and that she would slow us down.
On our run, I was telling Jason that I would really like to find a way to raise some money for Parkinson’s disease because it just breaks my heart that my Mother doesn’t do the things that she wants to do because she is not physically capable of doing them. Jason, who has run several marathons and raised money for other charities in the past, suggested running in a race and raising money throughout my training as way to honor my Mom. At first I laughed at the idea of running in a race — I don’t consider myself a runner — but ultimately decided that running and working on my personal fitness level, would be the perfect way to honor my Mother because although running is something she can no longer do, I could do it in her place. So I checked out the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s website, read about the Champions program for running and decided to go for it!
Q. Why is fundraising for PDF important to you? Can you tell us about your personal connection(s) to Parkinson’s disease and how that motivates you to support with PDF?
My Mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about nine years ago. I remember exactly where we were when she told me the news — we were in the car driving home from the Detroit Metropolitan Airport. I wasn’t shocked because she had begun having tremors in her hands for a couple of years, but really, nothing prepares you to hear that kind of information about your mother. She just blurted the information out to me because there wasn’t any other way to explain the gravity of the situation — there is no known cure and things were going to get difficult for my Mom and for our family. I started following the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation on Facebook years ago as a way to keep up-to-date on new research for patients, caregivers and family members. I think the Foundation does an excellent job of communicating the fact that this disease affects the entire family and provides resources to those affected, no matter what role they play.
My parents attend local seminars that the Michigan Parkinson Foundation produces, but since I do not live in the area, the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation has helped me feel connected to the information — and information is power.
Q. Why would you encourage others to support PDF as a PDF Champion?
Throughout this fundraising process, I have been genuinely surprised by not only the generosity of monetary support I’ve received, but also by number of emails, texts and other encouraging messages I’ve received. It is easy to forget that this disease touches so many people and while I may be training in honor of Mother, the process has been wildly beneficial for myself personally. The improvement in my physical fitness aside, I feel like I’ve started to build a network of supporters who all have a connection to Parkinson’s disease. I believe that being part of a community is key to dealing with Parkinson’s and being a PDF Champion has helped me find a community.
Q. Is there any other message you would like to share with the community?
Just get involved! Even if you are not comfortable with fundraising, I really encourage people to be Information Champions and share personal stories with one another. The interpersonal support in the Parkinson’s community is a critical component of care. However, if you are comfortable with fundraising, the great thing about the Champion’s program is that it can be customized. I chose my own race, set my own goals and have managed the process in a way that works for me and my family. You don’t have to run a race — you could host an event like a potluck dinner or cocktail party — but ultimately it is what you make of it.
Lise Goecke of Chicago, IL, is a PDF Champion and daughter of a person living with Parkinson’s disease. Learn more about Lisa and support her efforts by visiting her fundraising page at support.pdf.org/SandraSue.