Updated: Feb 8
by Elizabeth Gracen:
My grandfather, Tom Murphy, was an amazing athlete in the 1930s. He was the star quarterback for the Arkansas Razorbacks and would letter in all four sports at the University of Arkansas during his time there. He was set to play for the Chicago Bears, but was drafted by the military shortly after that. It was during his initial health screening that he was diagnosed with tuberculosis.
Quarantined along with others with TB, my grandfather was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease shortly after. I never knew him when he was not afflicted with Parkinson’s. All of his grand achievements as an athlete were just stories to me as I grew up, but I knew, even then, about the many challenges he faced and the importance of funding, research, and community for those living with Parkinson’s.
Many years later I had the good fortune to begin a powerful collaborative relationship with Hilary Thomas, artistic director of the Lineage Dance Company—a nonprofit that raises awareness for other charities and has a general mission to bring art to the masses. I have been involved with Lineage for over ten years now.
Because of our collaboration, my life as an artist has flourished and grown. Together, we have created numerous dances for camera, including documentaries and narrative short films. This relationship continues, to this day, to sprout new ideas and inspirational content.
The Brooklyn-based Mark Morris Dance Group and their Dance for PD program came to the Lineage Performing Arts Center about ten years ago as well. With the help of the amazing Dance for Pd program director and founding teacher, David Leventhal, Pasadena-based dancers were trained to facilitate special ‘healing movement’ classes for people with Parkinson’s and other neurological challenges. A small group of Parkinson’s patients got to experience their first dance class, created just for their specific needs, providing them with the physical benefits of movement as well an opportunity to experience a sense of community with their classmates. These classes, held at the Lineage Performing Arts Center in Pasadena and many other facilities across the country, have changed the lives of everyone involved—both students and teachers—in the most astounding ways.
Because of these classes, I became aware of a very special woman named Mary Anne Moses. Mary Anne was one of the first recruits to the “Dancing Through PD” classes, which are now called the “Dance for Joy” classes. Her incredible courage and inspiring relationship with Lineage and one of the teachers, Austin Roy, sparked my creative juices to create the film DANCE FOR JOY, which has been playing the international film festival circuit this past couple of years.
Please click the image to watch
DANCE FOR JOY
One of the class members, Amy Carlson (one of our new writers for Flapper Press), was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at the age of forty-four and has been a strong advocate for People with Parkinson’s. Amy is a spit-fire and believes that an “always now” attitude is the way to tackle each day. With the science to back it up, Amy knows that exercise is the cornerstone to living well with PD. . . . Which brings me to this past weekend and my morning spent as emcee for the Parkinson’s Foundation Moving Day Los Angeles.
I haven’t donned my Miss America hat (crown?) for many years, nor have I emceed in quite some time, but when Amy put me in contact with Bernice Detig, the regional director of the Parkinson’s Foundation, it felt like the right thing to do, and I’m so glad that I did.
The Parkinson’s Foundation Moving Day Los Angeles is an annual fundraising walk event that unites families, friends, and communities to fight against Parkinson’s disease. The event is designed as a celebration of movement and highlights the many organizations that help in fighting the disease and in the care of those afflicted with it.
The Parkinson’s Foundation makes life better for people with Parkinson’s disease by improving care and advancing research toward a cure. In everything we do, we build on the energy, experience and passion of our global Parkinson’s community. —from www.parkinson.org
Sunday’s event was moving in so many ways. Not only did I meet many inspiring people, I got a chance to visit with many of the exhibitors and sponsors about their contributions to the world of Parkinson’s. The ‘fundraising teams,’ with names like “Shaky but Not Stirred,” “Twitchy Women,” “Grandma’s Team,” and “Movadopa,” along with many individuals, raised approximately $120,000 to help fund the national mission of the Parkinson’s Foundation as well as raise funds to help launch new programs and services in the Los Angeles area.
As a bonus, I got to see my thirteen-year-old daughter take photos of everyone who crossed the finish line. I felt grateful that she got to experience the pride that comes from working toward something you are willing to fight for. She never got to meet my grandfather, but I felt him there with us every time I saw someone lift their arms in victory as they crossed the finish line.
If you’re reading this, we ask you to please donate to this worthwhile cause. For the next 30 days, your contribution will go toward the Moving Day Los Angeles chapter and will help them meet their goal of the $130,000 that will go to help fund critical research, treatment, resources, and support for those with Parkinson’s and their families.
I was contacted by the Moving Day Los Angeles chapter to give an important link regarding CBD research for people with Parkinson's.
To read about this research, please click on this link.