Category: our_mission



There was intention in our theme for this year’s September 14th symposium, and for those who attended (and for those who couldn’t but have read or heard about the event), we wanted to instill the importance of building and maintaining resilience to Parkinson’s challenges.

Coincidentally, in this week’s Parkinson’s News Today, columnist Sherri Woodbridge (diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s over 15 years ago) focused her subject material with a similar emphasis.

Click here to read her latest reflections about giving up not being an option, and her reminder about seeking purpose…NO MATTER WHAT!


Left to right:
Melanie Giles, Marie Lucey, Dr. Stephanie Bissonnette, Linda Hall (Parkinson’s Fitness co-founder), Anne Muskopf, Stephanie Recchia

With location hosting once again provided by the Danvers Community YMCA and their friendly, helpful staff and volunteers – with additional event assistance from YMCA Outreach Director Suzanne Malach – all was in readiness on September 14th for welcoming the 123-plus audience participants, 5 speakers, and 16 education exhibitors,  to our “Living Well with Parkinson’s: Building Resilience Foundations” symposium!

Five engaging guest speakers offered guidance about how to live stronger and create and maintain enjoyable, safe ways of everyday living.

Geriatric Medical Social Worker and keynote speaker, Stephanie Recchia, described resilience in terms related to searching within and beyond one’s self and discovering how past experiences and even personality traits affect adaptability to living with life-changing prolonged illness. She stressed the need for creating an interdisciplinary medical team, as well as strong family and peer support. Stephanie’s insightful remarks transitioned into how to re-create (or start) building strong inner foundations that help promote experiences of happiness and productivity.

Dr. Stephanie Bissonnette from the Boston Medical Center and BU School of Medicine focused on neurology. Marie Lucey from the Center for Balance, Mobility and Wellness at Gordon College addressed the importance of physical therapy. Melanie Olson Giles from the Speech Therapy Group in Beverly spoke about maintaining strong vocal communication capabilities and safe swallowing therapies. Anne Muscopf from the Jewish Family & Children’s Service Parkinson’s Family Support Program presented ways of creating activities of everyday lifestyle adaptations, as well as the potential use of assistive devices when necessary.

Parkinson’s Fitness instructors:
left: Dianna Daly, Balance in Motion
right: Kim Crowley, Strength & Conditioning

Once again, Parkinson’s Fitness instructors Dianna Daly (Balance in Motion) and Kim Crowley (Strength & Conditioning), joined by class substitute Sally Zagnoli, had EVERYONE moving and stretching to the lively music they’d chosen to showcase how even five minutes of movement a day can “wake up” anyone’s body! Click here to read more about our instructors and again here for weekly class locations and times in six nearby communities.

We couldn’t provide these educational symposiums without the support of our generous sponsors, participation by willing and wonderful speakers and their, as well as other, dedicated organizations who are helping to create the best possible life-management and healthy-living programs for all who live with Parkinson’s.


Ending with the words of online Parkinson’s News Today columnist and fellow Parkinsonian, Sherri Woodbridge, author of Journeying through Parkinson’s Disease:

  “…Hope brings purpose back into view. It shuts out the “what-ifs” and turns down the dial of doubt. It disables the feelings of despair, enables you to have a confident expectation of a cure, finds the blessings in the curse, and faith for a brighter future.”



Our 8-week percussion series, led by MedRhythms music therapy instructor Stian Berg Hansen, focused not only on the drumming itself, but also on using rhythm to engage listening, memory, and motor coordination.

During earlier class practice, Stian had the group use alternating drumming hands and clapping movements. This wasn’t always easy at the outset of our time together, especially when Stian also added in having us increase and decrease speed and volume over the weeks that followed. But we improved regularly over time! We also learned how to use boomwhacker instruments, which are colorful plastic tubes of varying lengths and tones of the music scale. Eventually, we divided our circle into three separate sections, with each group of five or eight players beating a different rhythm. The end result?? A pretty rhythmic, integrated sound!

We were able to provide this most recent free music experience through the support of a community grant from the national Parkinson’s Foundation and the generous use of space provided by the Danvers YMCA. From the alternating facial expressions of both focus and smiles, we feel the program was well received by the participants and their care partners!


Quoting information provided in a Michael J. Fox Foundation Foxfeed blog post titled “Ask the MD: Music as Medicine for the Mind”…

“In certain diseases, like Parkinson’s, the brain rhythm in the circuit controlling movement gets off track. …Playing music exercises the mind and body. It provides a route for social interaction. In drawing someone into its rhythm, it can calm a resting tremor, break a freezing spell and bring gait into a more normal pattern. Music can boost memory, lessen depression, and improve the volume and tone of speech.” (

Join our new MedRhythms 8-week neurologic percussion series beginning on Wednesday afternoons from 1-2 PM at the Danvers Community YMCA starting May 1st! Beat a combination of drums, smack a boomwacker, shake maracas…and SO much more! The series is limited to 30 people – take a chance on something new, motivating, beneficial, and fun. Register early by emailing to be part of this pilot opportunity  here in our area! 


Our September 29th “Living Well with Parkinson’s” symposium was attended by 150 people, over 20 supporting information vendors, and highlighted by four great guest speakers!

(left to right: Dr. Terry Ellis, Director, BU Center for Neurorehabilitation – Linda Nikolakopoulos, Registered Dietician and Licensed Nutritionist – Pamela Quinn, PD Dance & Coach, PD Movement Lab, New York – Dr. Albert Hung, Movement Specialist, MA General Hospital)

The printed word cannot possibly portray what became a visible energy field sparking the space provided at the Danvers Community YMCA! Included in the 4-hour program were 2 short but dynamic movement and exercise “samplers” led by Parkinson Fitness Balance and Movement instructor, Dianna Daly, and Strength, Conditioning, Boxing instructor, Kim Crowley. As they do in all their weekly classes, both women had participants willingly joining in “waking up” their bodies and minds in five minutes or less!

Drs. Hung and Ellis emphasized how to optimize time allotted during office visits and physical therapy appointments, as well as the importance of exercise in helping to maintain control over difficult body and cognitive challenges. Linda Nikolakopoulos provided insights into the role diet and nutrition play in remaining healthy and staying strong. Pamela Quinn, diagnosed with PD over 20 years ago, travelled from her own PD Movement Lab in New York ( to demonstrate strategies for moving and living in “real-life” scenarios. Pam’s vocal exercises to strengthen communication, augmented by hand and arm movements, were a high point for everyone!

Special thanks to everyone involved in making this event an incredible opportunity for learning and participating, with special shout-outs to Lucas Michaud, our photographer from Endicott College in Beverly, to Linda Hall’s friends Sandra Moores and Mary Orne for their assistance with credit card payments, to Suzanne Malach, YMCA liaison, the vendors who supported us financially and provided valuable community information, to the team of Parkinson’s Fitness volunteers who assisted as greeters, registrars, and table helpers…and to Linda Hall, whose tireless efforts built yet another opportunity for motivating people on the North Shore to live well, in spite of their Parkinson’s diagnosis!


We are grateful to Parkinson’s Fitness program participant, Laurie Grieves, for allowing us to share excerpts from her personal story spoken during our November 3, 2016 second annual fundraiser.

“When Linda asked me to speak at tonight’s spectacular event, I froze! Many things ran through my head in that instant:
• would I do the opportunity justice?
• would I speak clearly?
• would I be understood?
• would I fall ?
• would I freeze?
Then I remembered who I would be speaking to, and I was sure that there would be much understanding. So please, bear with me.

I’m Laurie Grieves and I’m married to Bob Grieves. As a matter of fact, we were married in this very room. …Bob and I live in Peabody with Lucy and Wendell, our dog and cat. (Some of you have met Lucy!) I have 4 wonderful adult children – John, Cara , Alex and Luke – and 3 spectacular granddaughters – Lyla, Ruby and Veda, who live in Atlanta with John and his wife Jenny. God bless the creator of Facetime. Now, if only we had Tickletime and Hugtime as well…but I’m sure that’s coming!

I’ve led a fairly traditional life. Of course, that was until 8 or 9 years ago, when I got the Parkinson’s diagnosis. After nearly a year of searching for answers at the insistence of my sister, who swore that I was shuffling, walking hunched over, and looked angry all the time – I thought it was just my bossy big sister being bossy – I decided to check it out.

I remember, when the neurologist said the words “I’m sure you have Parkinson’s”, that my automatic response was “GET OUT!!!!”, and I struggled with an uncontrollable urge to giggle! He droned on about the symptoms (of Parkinson’s) and he recommended only one single website that he knew of. I brushed him off and went home to figure out how to shake this thing.

After the customary tears, I settled in and just ignored the changes taking place in my body. They were slow but I knew they were there. I would occasionally search the internet for information. But I either found “snake oil remedies” or something unattainable, such as an early-afternoon support group at the local senior center. I was 50 years old and working at the time, so I was unable to go to the senior center during the day. To be honest, the idea of going was less than appealing. But things weren’t going as well as I’d hoped.

I used to have a little sign in my kitchen that read: “God doesn’t promise you a smooth road, but often times He puts springs in the wagon”. I was certainly experiencing rough roads and wondering, “So, where are the springs for my wagon.”

I retired from my job when the burden of paperwork and memory issues got to be too much. I didn’t feel I was up to any job after that. The disease began to progress and time spent inside our house began to grow. I kept saying, “There have to be other people like me out there!” Finally, one day in my frustration, I typed in an internet search for “Peabody-Exercise-Parkinson’s” and up came The website was only a couple of months old at the time, so I still feel really lucky to have found them that day!

I attended my first class at the Danvers COA and, boy, was I surprised! What a great place and full of life and energy. I was greeted by this tiny lady with a huge smile and infectious laugh – we know her as Linda – and my anxiety evaporated! And on that first day everyone kept talking about someone named Marilyn – Marilyn is on vacation – Marilyn needed a vacation day, etc. I kept thinking, who is this Marilyn and why does she need a vacation day so much? When I finally met her, I understood. She, like the others, just doesn’t stop! I have also had the pleasure of honing my boxing skills under the direction of Keith Hall!

The dedication and commitment shown by this team is remarkable. Whether they are teaching a class of 2 or 22 people, the intensity is the same. They take our health as seriously as we do – maybe even sometimes more so! They are constantly introducing us to new ideas about battling this beast of a disease and there is no snake oil here!

If you told me 10 years ago that I would be dancing, African drumming, volunteering for research studies, attending seminars, bowling, exercising, and singing with a group of people I had never met before, I would have said, “GET OUT!!!” Parkinson’s Fitness is more than an exercise program. It also provides people with a supporting social network that augments the clinical aspects of this disease. We are all weathering this storm and traveling this journey together, and Parkinson’s Fitness has certainly blazed a path for us to follow. Thank you to the team for everything you do. You have truly made a difference in my life and you are the springs in my wagon.”

And we thank YOU, Laurie, for sharing your positive attitude every time you’re with us!
Sharing your story at the fundraiser took courage and grace…and you truly showed both!



Over 100 people gathered at our second annual Evening of Art and Wine fundraiser on Thursday evening, November 3rd, at the Hawthorne Hotel in Salem! There was a joyful reunion of old friends, mingled with new faces everywhere!

Co-founders Keith and Linda Hall were gracious and welcoming in their opening remarks, followed by a moving description by class participant Laurie Grieves about what the Parkinson’s Fitness programs have meant in her life. Laurie explained to the audience how she never would have believed that as someone who didn’t necessarily like to exercise, not only is she doing that, but she’s also participated in drumming, boxing, singing, balance and movement classes, and the latest…cognitive tracking!

As Laurie finished speaking, surrounded by loud applause and we’re sure many teary eyes, music therapist and singing instructor Emily Interrante explained her role in our programming and proceeded to sing a class favorite, Fight Song, by composer/singer Rachel Platten. To the surprise of all in the room, 16 members of our singing class stood, moved forward to stand beside Emily, and joined in the singing in a mini “flash mob” style! They finished to well-deserved cheers and applause! To watch a brief video captured by phone:

It was an evening to long be remembered…a wonderfully appreciated blend of fun, friendship, emotion, music, good food and certainly encouragement that what we are doing through our programs is making a difference throughout the North Shore Parkinson’s community.

A HUGE and grateful thank you to everyone who supported the event in any and all ways!

Upcoming Idea Exchange About Movement and Dance…

Our Parkinson’s Fitness team is excited about having Associate Professor of Dance, Christina Soriano, from Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina visit with us on June 6th for an exchange of ideas regarding the connection between the arts and various neurodegenerative diseases.

Professor Soriano has extensive teaching and training backgrounds. She has served as a guest presenter at the Davis Phinney Foundation in Charlotte, North Carolina and as a panelist at the 2013 World Parkinson Congress on the subject of “Creativity and Parkinson’s Disease”. She has been a featured speaker at the Arts in Medicine Summit at the University of North Carolina Asheville, has taught workshops with arts practitioners in England, and has participated in the LEAD  Conference (Leadership Exchange in Arts & Disabilities), held in Washington DC.

A symposium titled “Aging Re-Imagined” was held March 17 and 18 this year. Chaired by Professor Soriano, it brought together more than 300 faculty, staff, students and members of the Winston-Salem community to discuss the topic of aging. Leading scholars, artists, medical professionals and researchers shared insight on how people age and how society thinks and feels about aging. The event featured national speakers and highlighted research being conducted by Wake Forest faculty.

The following summarization describes Professor Soriano’s philosophy about improvisational movement:

What does improvisational dance look like and why do I value it? The only constant in our lives is change. As we improvise, we discover who we are and what we care about. Movement habits form, and then they are disrupted. For older adults, the ability to navigate changes in routine can be more complicated. My improvisational dance strategies in class enable students to self-generate functional and expressive movement, with no worries about doing it “wrong.” Through a series of often rapidly delivered exercises that challenge cognition as much as physical function, Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s patients and undergraduates alike are encouraged to create their personal movement universes. Their bodies make shapes, shift and redirect in space, exploring different speeds and levels of effort along the way. Often, a problem is presented like: “travel from point A to point B in the room but pause along the way and make a reaching gesture followed by a circular shape with your bodies.” Without fail, multiple clever and surprising versions of these prompts result. The class community is a supportive and engaging one.”

“The freedom to move easily and adapt to real life challenges is a fundamental part of the human experience. Movement freedom allows individuals to enjoy a sense of agency and thrive in an ever-changing environment. As we age, being spontaneous can get harder, especially for someone with a neurodegenerative disease.” 

BRAIN: Improvisation is cognitively challenging and requires spontaneous decisions.

BODY: Dance has been shown to decrease fall risk and help with balance.

WELLNESS: Group classes encourage socialization and an overall sense of well-being.

Education, like life itself, is an ongoing, ever-changing process. In our mission to learn as much as we can from colleagues old and new, each of us who instructs or volunteers with the Parkinson’s Fitness programs will create new concepts to try as the result of Professor Soriano’s visit in June. We can hardly wait to share them!

Parkinson’s Awareness Month Newspaper Article…

Salem News staff writer Arianna MacNeill did a wonderful…and accurate!…job of presenting our programs to a wide North Shore audience. She and staff photographer Ken Yuszkus captured not only the physical faces of some of our class members, but also created a window for the public to glance through and gain better awareness about life with Parkinson’s disease.

If you haven’t seen the article, please visit this Salem News site:

Thank you, Arianna, Ken, and the Salem News for helping us share opportunities for empowering people with Parkinson’s to keep this G.O.A.L. = Go On Actively Living!

Appreciation for three talented friends…

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward

And so we want to share our gratitude about three very special people who have made it possible for Parkinson’s Fitness to share its mission throughout the North Shore communities and beyond. We think of these businesswomen as major foundation stones in our continuing program-building process.

Three years ago, as we recognized the importance of creating program visibility, we turned to Marblehead web designer Annie Clifford, founder of Clifford Web and Video Services ( Aware of Annie’s listening skills in helping clients shape the direction in which they want to present their information to the public, she was able to piece together all of our “we-want-to” visions into our first Parkinson’s Fitness web site. Annie not only played an important part in introducing us to a wider audience, she remains in an even more important role…she’s our friend! We welcome anyone considering Annie as their webmaster to contact us as references!

Recently, two new women – Kimberley Ballard and Jennifer Gonyea from Clarity Collaborative – have colorfully and creatively raised the visibility bar again by re-designing our web site to showcase our broadened definition of Parkinson’s “fitness”. Presenting motivating, ability-based physical exercise in a variety of locations will always remain our primary intention. Additionally, complementary forms of body movement, voice projection using music therapy, an incremental series of fine-motor and cognition-enhancing arts, and interactive socialization require their share of the visibility spotlight as well. So, a big public thank-you to Kimberley and Jennifer for all their recent efforts behind the scenes on our behalf!

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