By Lee Wardlaw
FLEMING ISLAND – John Holland shared a gripping testimony of his journey with Parkinson’s, an incurable brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements like shaking, stiffness and difficulty with balance and coordination.
Holland is just one real-life inspiration to the more than 60,000 Floridians and one million Americans that fight the battle with an illness he and so many others somehow manage to fight and overcome every day.
Kathy and Ray Lowery, a couple who recognize musical talent, treated an audience of 25 attendees to a litany of tunes last Saturday afternoon.
Alice Krauss is a representative from Brooks Rehabilitation Home Health, a nonprofit that offers a complete array of care including inpatient facilities, outpatient care and physical therapy. She spoke about the several free activities offered via their Adaptive Sports and Recreation Program, where she serves as program manager.
Basketball, fishing, bowling, kayaking and shotgun trap shooting are just a few of the several activities at Brooks. For those whose condition creates difficulty holding equipment, handles and other gripping tools are available so everybody can participate.
These are just a few sights and sounds of a lively, enthusiastic gathering of the Parkinson’s Support Group of Orange Park, which meets monthly at the Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Fleming Island.
“We hope to start some of those activities on that side of the bridge,” chairman Gregg Hummer said enthusiastically.
More activities could soon be coming to the Parkinson’s Support Group in concert with Brooks. But make no mistake: Saturday’s gathering wasn’t a typical club meeting. That’s because April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month.
Parkinson’s awareness received official recognition from town and county officials and a proclamation from Gov. Ron DeSantis.
On April 4, Orange Park approved the measure and the Clay County Board of Commissioners proclaimed “Parkinson’s Awareness Month in Clay County.”
“We’re proud that Orange Park and Clay County declared April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month,” Hummer said.
Support meetings are just one of the available activities. This includes twice-weekly exercise classes at Sacred Heart on Mondays and Thursdays, dinner gatherings at local hotspots, educational sessions, Bingo and other social events. The first spring picnic will be on April 22 at Spring Park in Green Cove Springs.
Krauss said practicing tried-and-true methods to fight Parkinson’s with social interaction and physical activity, were examples of topics for guest speakers. Others talk about nutrition, medication, education and rehabilitation.
The support group is the glue that kept Ken Thompson and his wife together during a rough-and-tumble battle with Parkinson’s.
“We just started this journey, and we’re looking for group support. This group has set a strong foundation, and we’ve got some members that aren’t here today that provide us with even more motivation to keep working.
Life is going to go on. The group teaches you that we may do things a bit slower but can do everything out there. It may just be as fast, but there is nothing we cannot do,” he said.
“We accept the fact that we’ve got Parkinson’s, and we live with it. We live with it the best we can. It’s just keeping people active and coming together for the social events,” Hummer said.
The group, existing as staunch, persistent, warrior-like individuals battling the disease, was founded in 2013.