Event Helps Draw Awareness

ST. MARYS — Walkers gathered for a stroll along Grand Lake St. Marys for the fifth annual Parkinson’s Awareness Walk Saturday morning to raise money and awareness for the disease.

Auglaize County Council on Aging Social Worker Michelle Evans said the walk also allows word to spread about a local support group.

“The walk helps get awareness out about our Parkinson’s support group,” she said, noting that the group meets at 2 p.m. on the third Monday of the month at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital.

Evans noted that the course along East Bank Road provided two options for walkers.

“The course is set up so that at each bench the walkers pass, they’ll receive information and encouragement from one of our sponsors,” Evans said, noting that Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, the Auglaize County Council on Aging, Community Health Pros and the State of the Heart Hospice sponsored the event. “If they went just to the four benches and back, they walked two miles, and if they did the whole lake, they walked three miles.”

At the conclusion of the walk, participants were treated to a light breakfast and socialized in a shelter house. Information about the disease and local groups was available for walkers. Evans said the event typically brings in a good amount of money that is donated to the Parkinson Foundation of Northwest Ohio. Evans noted that one donor in particular, Tom McCarthey, raises a substantial amount of money for Parkinson’s disease research. McCarthey, who participated in the walk, mows lawns to raise money and said he enjoys the physical activity.

“All my life I’ve enjoyed being physically active,” McCarthey said, noting that he was a “farm kid” and got in a habit of walking and enjoying nature with his father. “I was doing fine until seven or eight years ago and found that I couldn’t keep my balance. I was falling off my bike and my mower.”

After falling off his mower and being unable to get himself back up, McCarthey said he knew he needed to see a doctor. His doctor told him he had a tremor and sent him to see a specialist who immediately identified him to have Parkinson’s disease.

“He told me it is a chronic, degenerative, incurable disease that will eventually make me immobile,” McCarthey said, noting that his doctor told him that they needed to keep him “as active as possible for as long as possible.”

McCarthey said he wanted to do something that would keep him active and help with research for the disease.

“I thought maybe I could be useful to Parkinson’s and at the same time be active,” he said. “Why not take on a project of mowing for Parkinson’s? I can turn in a noticeable amount for Parkinson’s research.”

McCarthey donates half of the money he raises mowing lawns to Parkinson’s research and uses the other half for gas and upkeep for his mower.

He said he enjoys the work he does and continues to stay positive and active.

“A positive attitude and an active life are key to surviving as long as possible,” he said.

Jackie Jutte and her 2-year-old Newfoundland Benson also participated in the walk Saturday morning.

Benson is a therapy dog that visits hospitals and nursing homes in the area.

“He goes to the hospital (Joint Township District Memorial Hospital) twice a month and works with disabled children and he also works at nursing homes twice a month,” Jutte said.

Jutte said Benson is a part of the Sunshine Project and he helps kids do their therapy without realizing it. Benson has also participated in other local events.

“He pulls carts so we do parades,” Jutte said. “We did the New Bremen parade. He also gives cart rides to disabled kids.”

Jutte noted that she and Benson participated in the Parkinson’s walk to talk to walkers about their work in the nursing homes.

Virginia Moorman and her husband participated in the walk for the first time.

She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago.

“We go to the meetings every month at the hospital,” she said. Moorman noted that she heard about the walk at one of the meetings.

Moorman said the meetings have been helpful.

“We find books to read and hear about what other people with Parkinson’s do,” she said.

Parkinson Foundation of Northwest Ohio Vice President Dennis Ploszaj also attended the walk.

The foundation will be holding an education program at 7 p.m. Sept. 27 at St. Michael the Archangel Parish Auditorium in Findlay for anyone interested in learning more about Parkinson’s disease. Anyone interested can call 419-383-6737. Ploszaj also said the foundation hosts a regular clinic.

“Every Tuesday, we hold a Parkinson’s Disease clinic where attendees see a variety of clinicians,” Ploszaj said.

“At the end, the clinicians get together with the patient and review their findings.”

Ploszaj noted that the clinic is only available for three patients each week. For more information on the Parkinson Foundation of Northwest Ohio and the programs it offers, contact Ploszaj at ploszajd@aol.com.

For more information on the local support group, contact Evans at 419-394-8252.