The Parkinson Support Group of Tarrant County, Texas was organized in April 1983 at Broadway Baptist Church, Fort Worth with 49 charter members. (April is the birth month of Dr. James Parkinson, founder of Parkinson’s Disease) Even though Broadway Baptist Church does not sponsor the organization, it graciously permits us use of their facilities for meetings and exercise, and provides coffee and tea and other amenities.
The Parkinson Support Group had a great vision for meeting the needs of the People with Parkinson’s (PWP) in this community. Original goals included providing information, entertainment, inspiration and fellowship. In an invitation it was noted that speakers included several neurologists, physical therapist, a minister, a speech pathologist, and a Pharmaceutical representative. Exercise classes were held twice at TCOM (Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine) under the direction of a certified physical therapist. Spouses or caregivers of PD patients were invited and encouraged to participate. Two six-week pilot programs in Communication Skills under the direction of a speech pathologist and a grant was sought to continue the program “on a year round basis”. A monthly news letter kept members and representatives of the health care community aware of our achievements and future goals.
A letter was sent to the Tarrant County Medical Society, specifically the Specialty Doctors of Neurology, Internal Medicine, General Practitioners, Family Practitioners and Geriatrics informing them of the Support Group and encouraging them to inform their PD patients of our services. At that time, there were only 15 support groups in Texas, 400 in the United States and only 35 in Europe and Asia.
The Parkinson’s Support Group has continued to meet for educational meetings at least 10 times each year. We now have a free exercise group which meets three times a week and a Caregivers Support Group was the vision of Jeannette Engler, wife of late President Roy Engler and editor of Newsletter for several years. The Caregivers Support Group offers information, encouragement and support to Caregivers of People with Parkinson’s.
The Exercise Group has had several meeting places and leaders over the 26 years. Under the leadership of Bob Hammond, who was the retired Activities Director of Broadway Baptist Church, and a Person with Parkinson’s, the group moved to the Act activities building of Broadway Baptist Church. When Bob was no longer able to lead the group, Bob Belisle stepped up and gave leadership. He now shares the leadership with Ryan Barfoot, a pre-med student at TCC.
The newsletter has continued and is now a by-monthly publication providing information about current medical treatments, local symposiums in the Metroplex and local Support Group information.
The Support Group also has begun a library of Parkinson Information. We have 71 books, several VCRs, DVDs, and articles too numerous to count. Also information on specific questions ie, driving, diet, exercise, freezing, etc, will be sent upon request and information is available at each meeting.
At least two medical symposiums have been held in the 1990's. Dr. Margaret Hoehn who co-developed the Hoejn-Yahr Scale for Parkinson's came from Colorado. Later, Dr. Gary Heitame from Stanford University in San Francisco and spoke about the Paladotomy Surgery at Harris Hospital. Both were excellent and were well received.
The Support Group is an all volunteer organization depending on dues, memorials and donations and volunteer labor. Several medical professionals (Dr. David Capper, Dr. Susan Blue, Dr. Madhavi Thomas, Marlene Bass, RN, Cindy Nolan, PT, Gracia Childers, SP, and Cathy Collier) volunteer and are greatly appreciated.
The Parkinson’s Support Group of Tarrant County continues to provide education, information, encouragement and practical help to the Parkinson’s community in Tarrant County and surrounding area and has remained true to the original stated goals.