Parkinson’s Walkathon Brings Awareness to Greater Lansing Community

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Debby Orloff, CEO of Michigan Parkinson Foundation and Tamara Hicks-Syron, a resident walking for family members and friends, at the Parkinson's Walkathon

Debby Orloff (Right) and Tamara Hicks-Syron (left) getting ready for the Parkinson's Walkathon and 5K Run. Photo by Jennifer Raye.

By Jennifer Raye
The Meridian Times staff writer

OKEMOS, Mich.- More than 400 people participated in the “I Gave My Sole for Parkinson’s” Walkathon and 5K run, organized by the Michigan Parkinson Foundation at Okemos High School on Oct. 1.

The second annual Greater Lansing area Michigan Parkinson Foundation Walkathon and 5K run had more than 100 participants compared to last year’s walkathon, which had around 300 walkers and runners.

“We’re bringing people together from all over to celebrate their coping with this disease,” said Debby Orloff, CEO of the Michigan Parkinson Foundation.

The Greater Lansing area has 30,000 to 35,000 people currently affected by Parkinson’s disease. Michigan has more than 55 support groups, two in Ingham County. Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder with movement related symptoms including tremors, difficulty moving and cognitive behavior.

Members of the MSU community giving their support at the Parkinson's Walkathon.

Glen Ackerman (left) and Roger Smeltekop (right) are MSU associate professors bringing awareness and providing support for Parkinson's patients. Photo by Jennifer Raye

Members of the MSU community were present. Roger Smeltekop, associate professor of music therapy at MSU, brought students to the walkathon and to the support group meetings. “It brings a healthy music experience, it brings joy out of the patients. Music has a sensory, social and cultural impact. They teach us so much too, its really a two-way street for us,” Smeltekop said.

“It’s a common language, everyone can relate to it,” said Barb Hasbrook, a member of the caregivers’ support group. The caregivers’ group was designed for family members of Parkinson’s patients. They meet on the first Wednesday of each month in the All Saints Episcopal Church in East Lansing from 1-3 p.m.

The Parkinson’s support group meets once a month, every third Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. in the Valley Court Park Community Center in East Lansing. “We share ideas of coping and provide a community so people realize they’re not alone. They know others have been through it before, so there’s always help,” said Gene Kenyon, a member and co-chair of the Greater Lansing support group and volunteer during the walkathon.

“These people are far more than patients; they are my friends. I see so many of these people here on a daily basis,” said Glen Ackerman, MSU’s founder of the Parkinson Clinic and neurologist. Visit the Parkinson clinic for more information.

Walkathon participants get ready for the walkathon

Walkathon participants get ready for the walkathon.

With the money raised from last year’s walkathon, the Greater Lansing area Michigan Parkinson Foundation was able to hold a symposium with speakers, health care professionals, and patient’s stories.

Detroit also holds annual Parkinson’s Walkathon and 5K runs. The Greater Lansing area is growing and has expanded by 25 percent, Kenyon said.

Visit Michigan Parkinson Foundation for more information about support groups, fundraising events and volunteering.

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