By Laura Ramos, Community Engagement Associate 

At the Central Valley Community Foundation (CVCF), we are constantly inspired by the individuals and organizations who serve a need in our community by spreading awareness and collecting support for their cause. The Greater Fresno Parkinson’s Support Group is helping people with Parkinson’s and their care partners. CVCF has managed their field of interest fund since 2007, and most recently they were awarded a $20,000 grant from the Parkinson’s Foundation to offer free exercise classes for people with Parkinson’s.

If you’re like me, you’ve heard of Parkinson’s disease but don’t know what it is exactly. That’s one thing I value about my work with CVCF: I learn about a variety of topics which may not affect me directly but do impact those around me. Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder (1). This means there is nerve cell damage in the brain which causes dopamine (a chemical in the brain that communicates to our bodies to move, among other things) levels to drop (2). A few symptoms experienced are tremors, slowness of movement, tightness in limbs, balance problems (3). Since PD is a diverse disease, individuals may show some symptoms over others and vice versa (4). It is estimated about 1 million people have PD in the US, and men are 1.5 times more likely to have PD than woman (5). In a Center for Health Journalism article published in 2010, those living in the Central Valley may show a link between PD and pesticide exposure in our agriculture (6).

The Greater Fresno Parkinson’s Support Group, has been operating for the last 20 years. Currently, the group includes individuals ages 27 to 60+ years old. Anyone with PD, family members, and/or caregivers are welcome to join the support group at no cost. The group is able to provide support and resources through donations. They host regular monthly meetings on the second Saturday of each month in Clovis. For more information click here.

So why exercise? People with PD benefit from exercise because it helps with reducing stiffness and improving mobility, posture, balance and walking (7). It also helps by slowing down the progression of the disease (8). “Especially as you get older— it’s tougher, just, not having Parkinson’s when you’re in your 60s and 70s – who wants to go out and exercise?,” Ken Rivera, faciliatory of the community grant said, “but when you have Parkinson’s it forces you to slow this disease down by getting the exercise.”

Through the Parkinson’s Foundation grant, exercise classes will be available, for the next year, to those with PD in the Central Valley. The classes will be free and assist with mobility, balance and flexibility. Group members will be able to enjoy balance and stretching, boxing, and yoga four times a week. Some of our CVCF staff was invited to one of the classes. On this particular day, the class was led by John Bowers from Cen Cal Fitness. The group was a lively bunch, cracking jokes and appeared to enjoy the activities. Opportunities like this make a huge impact on the quality of life for those with PD.

The class schedule can be found here. For additional information about Greater Fresno Parkinson’s Support Group visit here. If you or someone you know is living with PD and would like to get involved, contact Ken Rivera at kenrrivera@gmail.com and please cc Marci Bero at marciebero@hotmail.com.  

If you would like to make a donation click here and in the “Add special instructions to the seller” section state your donation is for the Greater Fresno Parkinson’s Support Group.

 If you’re interested in information about how to start a fund, please contact Director of Donor Services, Claudia Ruiz- Alvarez at claudia@centralvalleycf.org or 559-226-5600.

Additional Resources:

Parkinson’s Foundation

Twitchy Woman

Parkinson’s News Today

Brain Grant Foundation

Davis Phinney Foundation

Michael J. Fox Foundation

2020 Fresno Parkinson’s Summit details TBA. Click here for details from 2019’s Summit.