The members of the Parkinson's support group at Body in Balance Fitness Center in Linwood aren't taking their battle with the nervous system disorder lying down. Instead, they're sitting.
On Oct. 7, the group will hold the Yoga for Parkinson's AC Beach Challenge by the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, South Boston Avenue and the Boardwalk. Qualified instructors from around the area will conduct classes on the beach, and there will be Parkinson's friendly Chair Yoga on the Boardwalk. Proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research.
Mari Dattolo, a Parkinson's patient and member of the support group who co-organized the event along with Body in Balance owner Ellie Hagan, said the support group has long planned to put on a fundraiser for Parkinson's research.
"We wanted to do something to raise awareness, and so we decided to do a fundraiser," Dattolo said. "I (volunteer for) Michael J. Fox Foundation's clinical studies, so I've been doing some research with them, so it seemed like the ideal marriage."
Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, caused by the sudden death of dopamine-secreting neurons in the mid-brain. According to the Challenge's website, more than 50,000 new cases of Parkinsons' are diagnosed in the United States alone each year, and there are an estimated 4 to 6 million sufferers worldwide.
Hagan, a Physical Therapist, noticed a dearth in treatment options for Parkinson's disease in the South Jersey area a few years ago and embarked on a course of study that has made her an expert in the disease. She has studied under Arizona-based neuroscientist Becky Farley, who is a pioneer in using yoga as a treatment for Parkinson's.
Hagan said studies have suggested that some of the movements in yoga have been shown to stimulate the brain to produce dopamine, which is vital to holding the disease in check.
"They actually see the brain changing , so (Farley's) premise is exercise for brain change," Hagan said. "Hopefully we can slow the disease down and possibly prevent those final stages from occurring."
Hagan, who has offered the yoga and Parkinson's support programs at her studio since March, said she hopes to renovate her facility to include a dedicated Parkinson's gym. She said she has tentative plans to become a non-profit, which would allow her to secure grants and expand her efforts.
Every dollar raised at the Beach Challenge will be matched by the Brin Wojcicki Foundation, which has pledged to match every donation made to the Michael J. Fox Foundation until Dec. 31. The organization was created by google co-founder Sergey Brin and his wife, Anne Wojcicki.
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If you go
What: Yoga for Parkinson's AC Beach Challenge.
When: noon to 3 p.m. Oct. 7. Registration begins 10:30 a.m.
Where: Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, South Boston Avenue and the Boardwalk, Atlantic City.
$15 in advance, $20 at the door. Includes T-shirt and water bottle.