by Erin McIndoo
On May 2, many community members and businesses showed immense support to the longtime St. Joseph resident Alicia Peters at the Parkinson’s Moving Day Fundraiser at Bad Habit Brewing.
With the help of more than 15 volunteers, attendance of many community members and donated items, money and time, $4,150 was raised. All proceeds will go to the Parkinson’s foundation which helps to support those with Parkinson’s, educate about the disease and fund research.
Many businesses donated items for the $5 raffle at the Moving Day Fundraiser, including; Steve Diamond Elements, Sundance Ridge, Naomi Ragatz, W/R Home Company, Minnesota Street Market, New Towne Hair, Krewe, Flour & Flower, Hudson & Company, Bruno Press, Pottery by Dane, Fairview Gardens, Simply Strengths, Floral Arts and Paramount.
Some of the items included an electric guitar, a weekend getaway in Crosslake, locally made pottery and some gift baskets. All the food was donated by Jules’ Bistro in St. Cloud and music provided by Carl Wockner who flew in from Nashville.
“I love my town a lot and I love supporting my community,” Peters said. “When people come to me and ask me ‘what can I do?’ I say, ‘donate to the Parkinson’s Foundation’ because that’s really what helps me the most.”
In November of 2018, Peters was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. According to the National Parkinson’s foundation of America, in 2015 there were more than 20,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease in Minnesota and its expected to grow to 30,000 by 2024 due to the state having one of the highest rates of people with Parkinson’s.
“It impacts a lot of people worldwide. I bet most people have a connection to somebody they love and care about,” said Katie Christiensen, Peters’ best friend. “It’s a collective cause of something we need to extinguish.”
YOPD can look a little bit different than what most people expect when they hear Parkinson’s. People who are diagnosed with young onset are in their 40s rather than 70 or older, and usually have a career and children they are still taking care of. Young onset also works a lot slower than regular Parkinson’s and is considered more of a marathon rather than a sprint and for this reason most people diagnosed with YOPD may not be very open about it.
“The majority of when I go to anything to do with Parkinsons, it’s the 80- or 90-year-old people and I think ‘no one else looks like me’ so I think it’s a good way to let people know,” Peters said. “As a teacher too, I just felt like I wanted to be involved in a community and educate about Parkinson’s so I’ve been really open about my diagnosis to inform people about the different types of the disease.”
Since her diagnosis, Peters has been very active in the Parkinson’s community by hosting events such as the recent fundraiser, participating in Moving Day which is a walk hosted by the Parkinson’s Foundation to raise money and get people to move their bodies. The title Moving Day is in reference to how important it is for someone with Parkinson’s to continue to move their body everyday, as being still can be detrimental. Peter’s team for these events is called Straight Out of Dopamine, which is a reference to the excess of dopamine that people with Parkinson’s have.
Since YOPD is not very common, Peters and her sister, Andrea Swenson, thought it was very important for her to share her voice and support others with young onset by becoming a part of the board for the Parkinson’s Foundation.
“They needed a voice on the board, someone with young onset who was not afraid to talk or share their experience and I don’t think they had anybody that really could fill that void for a very long time,” Swenson said. “She (Peters) has a high need to connect and find connection and they didn’t have many people to recommend she connect with, [who have] young onset.”
Peters said she has been able to connect with more people than ever since taking her position on the board, and is even contacted by others with young onset who may need advice or even just someone to talk to. She has been able to educate many people about Parkinson’s and send a clear message of how important it is to connect with others and above all keep moving.