Saturday, thousands of people from the Tampa community, along with special guest Rasheda Ali, Muhammad Ali’s daughter, put on their walking shoes and came together to participate in a national Moving Day event at the University of South Florida in honor of the National Parkinson’s Foundation.
According to mayoclinic.com, Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative nerve disorder that affects movement. Because it develops gradually, it can be difficult to detect, and once detected, can rapidly affect quality of life.
Ali, an advocate for Parkinson’s disease and the author of a children’s book about it, participated in the inspiring event.
“I participated in Moving Day to help raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease and to encourage people to get moving for better health and to better manage their disease,” Ali said.
Moving Day is more than just a walk. It highlights movement and exercise as a symbol of hope and progress because of its essential role in treating Parkinson’s disease. The day featured a unique Movement Pavilion with activity stations such as yoga, Pilates, Tai Chi and dance.
“Along with eating a well-balanced diet, the importance of exercise cannot be stressed enough for someone living with PD (Parkinson’s disease),” Ali said.
Ali’s father, a former champion boxer, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 1984, and as a result, inspired his daughter to find a cure.
“My dad has not allowed Parkinson’s disease to stop him or define who he is,” Ali said. “He continues to help others achieve their dreams and inspires all of us to love and respect our shared humanity.”
Despite the debilitating effects of the disease, Ali said her father refuses to feel sorry for himself.
“Regarding my dad’s 30-year struggle with PD, I have never said, ‘Why him?’ because he has never said, ‘Why me?’” she said.
Ali said living with a family member who has the disease can be challenging at times but it has made their family grow as a unit.
“In order to help understand this complicated condition, we were compelled to educate ourselves about it,” Ali said. “The more we understand it, the better we understand our loved ones and their behavior. We realized quite quickly that PD doesn’t only affect our loved ones but the entire family.”
Ali thinks certain symptoms of PD affect the family more than others. “Specifically slurred speech,” she said. “Which has helped us to become better communicators.”
In the U.S., 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, adding to the one million people who have Parkinson's disease.
The disease has affected USF public relations student Eileen Roundtree, whose grandfather was diagnosed 20 years ago.
Roundtree said it’s important to know the symptoms and understand the involvement of PD.
“It’s important … for everybody to learn more about the disease,” she said. “He is very forgetful — one of the symptoms of PD is that they can’t swallow as easily, so he has choked a lot on food.”
“My grandfather is bedridden and his stages are severe,” said Roundtree. “So around-the-clock care is needed for him”.
Caregivers are hugely involved with the disease, working shifts around the clock to help out families.
“They visit at different days and times — they have to feed him, bathe him and watch him,” Roundtree said.
The Tampa community raised over $150,000 for the campaign, which will help raise awareness, support local services and fund research leading to better treatments to improve the lives of patients and families affected by the disease in the area.
People who take part in Moving Day become part of a nationwide movement to beat Parkinson’s by supporting disease education and helping to improve clinical care through professional training.
Students can get involved by donating to www.movingdaytampabay.org.