It's impossible for your eyes not to swell with tears. The stories often start with despair. "I am full of anxiety." "Parkinson's has affected me mentally and physically." "I watch as my body slowly deteriorates." "I feel helpless as my deteriorates, and I wonder how I can help him.”
But then there's hope. "Knowing that exercise can slow symptoms has given me focus." "I'm up at 5:30 a.m., so I can start the day building up my strength." "My and I have an exercise plan for every day now.” Sitting and watching yourself or a loved one decline is so hard. Knowing that you can take action is game-changing. Not just for people with Parkinson’s, but for family members, friends, and caregivers.
That’s why this month (Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month), and April 11 (World Parkinson’s Day), and the National Day of Telehealth for Parkinson’s Disease (sign up here and you can still access your free account for the remainder of the month) has been so inspiring.
When Ray Dorsey of the University of Rochester suggested using BurnAlong to raise awareness of the importance of exercising for Parkinson’s Disease, the team at BurnAlong immediately jumped on his idea. (We were first introduced to Ray at the d.health Summit by our partner Sue Sheain of Beach Barre Body located in Bethany and Rehoboth, DE, who envisioned how BurnAlong could help people with Parkinson's.)
Our mission is focused on helping people live healthier lives. The ability to take unlimited classes whenever you want, wherever you are – and if you want in live private sessions with others you invite – is tailor made for this.
And from the moment Ray suggested the idea, the speed of what happened next was inspiring. The team at the University of Rochester led by Anna and Kelsey leapt to spread the word: Community centers and foundations, like the National Parkinson's Foundation and the Davis Phinney Foundation, jumped in to support.
BurnAlong gym, studio, and wellness partners filmed special classes. The first came from Joanie at JoanieFit, Prateen and Eric from Premier Physical Trainer, Alexa from Axion Trainer, and Lynn Matthews from Wellness 4 Life. New partners joined who are specifically focused on Parkinson’s, notably David and Pat from the Mark Morris Dance Group - Dance for PD.
On top of that many of the corporate partners who use BurnAlong for their employees, and members of the BurnAlong community, helped spread the word and took classes together on April 11.
People from Japan to Holland to Israel to Peru participated in classes. Community centers put classes up on big screens for groups to take together in-person. We also appeared on Fox talking about it.
Our mission of the day, raising awareness about the impact of Parkinson's, was achieved.
But in reality our mission is just beginning. This shows what can be done. In the coming weeks and months, we are going to be building up more classes for people with Parkinson's Disease -- and we're expanding to other diseases and chronic illnesses.
It’s clear that those who most need access to great classes, are often those who most struggle to get it. Whether it's because they're far away (people in rural villages told us this was the first time they've had access to a class); because they can't leave their home (people told us they can't drive and don't have access to regular transport); or don't know where to start.
We've also learned for family members, friends, and caregivers giving them the ability to join their loved ones live wherever they are in the world has a big impact. Not just because it provides motivation and support, but also because it changes conversations. They don’t always need to be checking up, "Did you exercise today?” But they can be instead about the family, kids, and everything else we love to talk about.
We want to hear your ideas and suggestions. Anything we can do to further this mission we want to know.