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Tina Sawyer Steps Up Fundraising in Seaside

Monday July 20, 2015

As we count down the final days until the Walk, we would like to share Tina Sawyers's story about fundraising virtually from a small town. A long-time friend of NWPF and a top-notch fundraiser, Tina captains the virtual walk team Strolling in Seaside, which has 13 members. We were lucky enough to have her answer some questions that we hope will inspire you!

Why did you decide to be a virtual walker for Team Parkinson's: Walk in the Park?

I signed up for the walk partly because I like to keep busy, but at this age I am learning to choose what that means. I am not one who can sit idly by, nor am I a joiner just to have people around me. Things have to hold a deeper meaning for me to become involved with them, and there's only one level of involvement: full steam ahead.

I heard about NWPF from my doctor, Alida Griffth, MD, at the Booth Gardner Parkinson's Care Center 10 years ago when I was diagnosed with PD. She is very good at pointing patients in the direction that will benefit them the most. Walking for NWPF, especially as a "virtual walker" is my way of educating a community that doesn't have immediate access to services. It's my way of saying "let's see what we need and what we can do, together." I walk because I have something to say. I walk because right now I can. I walk because I want others to understand what PD is and the costs to the community. I walk because it's the right thing to do.

I chose to walk with NWPF because I saw that I could fundraise in my own town. Commuting to a distant town to walk for a fundraiser is not appealing. I have PD, I get tired. I'm better on my own schedule, in my own environment, with options of how to raise the money. NWPF offered this.

This is the first time I am reaching out publicly to talk about PD. I have always preferred to work behind the scenes. I had something to say, something to offer; it was the right thing to do. When I was first diagnosed, I immediately got exercise training under Dr. Becky Farley in Tucson. I read everything I could put my hands on. For two years, with generous grants and the gracious support of others, I brought monthly informational seminars to town, starting with speakers from the Mohammed Ali clinic in Phoenix. Attendance was maxed out and had waiting lists. That's how hungry people were for cutting edge information applicable to their situations.

Next came classes: Dr. Farley's program, pole walking, seated Tai Chi, gentle stretch and balance positions, cognitive exercises... And then my own fatigue set in. I simply couldn't do all of the classes on my own, and the program was not going to be picked up by the organization that I worked for, I moved from that area to the Oregon coast, but I still have the ideas and the passion.

We noticed many people have joined your team. How do you get people motivated for your cause? Any tips for fellow fundraisers?

I believe in the idea of educating others. Education leads to understanding of the situation and how it affects each of us. Once that understanding touches a personal chord, people consider the costs and benefits of responding.  I mention that health care costs are going up as younger and younger people get diagnosed with Parkinson's and leave the workforce. Going a step further, I add that public transportation, housing, and even the sidewalks need to be adjusted to accommodate people with disabilities. Then I ask, "What if individuals could better manage their PD symptoms for a longer period of time?"  Next I ask for help or donations.

There is a wonderful group of women I've met in Seaside. We have been meeting together for over a year now. In getting to know our neighbors, we create a safer environment - one that's responsive to the differences we have.  Most of the Seaside virtual walkers are these wonderful women who just said "Count me in" when I asked them to help me.

So my main tip is to ask your friends to help you and tell them why you want to be involved in the fundraiser.  From there, you ask everyone you encounter (the shoe salesman, grocer, pub owner, city hall, your vet). Instead of looking at it as "asking," you're really just giving people a chance to be compassionate. Now there's a concept!

Your dog Anniken is so cute! He's quite the little fundraiser!

My companion, Anniken, is a 2-year-old male Cockapoo. He is my constant companion, and we are still working out behavioral kinks. He is not a trained service dog. But he is a loyal, protective companion with an innate sense of empathy. I have Parkinson's-induced nightmares that cause me to cry out. Guess who licks my face until I wake up and calm down? Anniken frequently checks on me if I'm not in the same room as he is. This would annoy some people, but as someone with Parkinson's disease, I find it reassuring. I am certain that he can be trained to give/get help if I need it. In the meantime, he is a companion of great comfort. 

Tina And Akkiken

I added him to our team because he is always with me, and he attracts a lot of attention. He has earned over three hundred dollars and will be wearing his Walk in the Park T-shirt, which gives me a chance to plug companion and service dogs for people with Parkinson's disease, and maybe get a donation. It also gives me an opening to talk about the importance of service animals (for people with Parkinson's) to the local vets, trainers, and kennels ...and ask for donations as well. Hey! - It's a chance to understand the needs of the people with PD and to be compassionate.

He's got a face you'd be happy to donate to.

You can join Team Parkinson's too! Walk with us in Seattle or in your own neighborhood like Tina. Register here

Interview conducted by Yiran Shi, Communication Intern with NWPF

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