In 2014, Lynn Hagerbrant and Jeff Butchen were both recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and felt there was an unmet need for a positive support group in Fairfield County Connecticut. They met at a Michael J. Fox Partners in Parkinson’s event in Manhattan, and together they created Shaker’s Anonymous, which met monthly at the New Canaan, CT YMCA.
Shakers Anonymous is a positive peer led support group for people with PD and their partners. It provides support and networking in addition to featuring expert presentations on promising research and other topics pertinent to PD. Throughout the pandemic, it has grown into a nationwide group of almost 500 which met weekly via Zoom. The group now meets both in person and via Zoom.
In response to a need in the community, the co-founders and members of Shaker’s Anonymous started the Parkinson’s Body and Mind Program at the YMCA of Greenwich in 2018. This is an exercise and wellness program and is now offered at two other YMCAs in Fairfield County. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) “Parkinson’s Disease patients should be encouraged to actively participate in regular exercise as a potent non-pharmacological therapeutic strategy against PD.”
Parkinson’s Body and Mind is now working with Teachers College/Columbia University to implement community-based exercise and wellness programs for people with PD. We are also working together to provide program assessments for participants and instructor training. The assessments are to be administered by local physical therapists to measure the participants progress for class placement, motivation, and research.
The vision of Parkinson’s Body and Mind (PBM) is to provide a system of community-based peer led support groups and comprehensive exercise and wellness programs with specially trained instructors. The focus of the exercise and wellness programs is to improve the symptoms and fight the progression of Parkinson’s Disease.
Shaker’s Anonymous and the Parkinson’s Body and Mind Program, have grown so rapidly that we have established Parkinson’s Body and Mind, Inc. which has filed for 501(c)(3) status. The goal of creating a 501(c)(3) nonprofit is to raise funds to expand the exercise and wellness programs and support groups to include people with Parkinson’s living underserved communities who do not currently have access to these services. We are working with neurologists and Movement Disorder specialists to inform people with PD about our program and the benefits it can offer them. There are now several neurologists in the area who tell their newly diagnosed clients that the first thing they should do is to join our support groups and exercise programs.