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The Glass is Half-Full

Thursday June 30, 2016

By Scott Johnson

As a long-time teacher, administrator, coach and scorekeeper, Ron Hanken has spent countless hours on the sidelines. He’s mostly watched others enjoy the action and rarely has found more enjoyment doing it than when his grandchildren are playing sports.

On Saturday, July 30, the roles will be reversed.

Hanken will be the family focal point when he participates in his third Team Parkinson’s Walk Seattle on July 30. The event, scheduled to be held at Seattle’s Magnuson Park, is a rare moment for Hanken to move out of the audience and onto the stage.

“I feel like I’m making a contribution” to Parkinson’s, Hanken said. “It makes me feel good.”

Most of Hanken’s adult life has been about making others feel good. A married father of five, he taught for 40 years in the Issaquah (Wash.) School District and spent some time as athletic director at Skyline High School before retiring into a quiet life of grandparenting and keeping score for Skyline football games. It was a pretty good gig, considering he got to watch a team that went to five state championships games and won three titles over a seven-year span between 2004 and 2010.

Ron Hanken 1

Then, during the summer of 2011, when Hanken was in his mid-60s, he began noticing a pronounced tremor in his left hand. Hanken went to his physician, who sent him to a neurologist, who diagnosed him with Parkinson’s. When the news sunk in, Hanken approached it with a glass-half-full approach.

“There are a lot worse things that can be contracted,” he said recently. “(Football player) Steve Gleason was diagnosed with ALS, and that’s a death sentence. Parkinson’s is slow-progressing. Eventually there are some limitations, but I don’t look that far down the road. I take each day and do the best with what I’ve got. A lot of people with much worse-off diseases. I’m a pretty positive person, for the most part.”

While Hanken kept his diagnosis under wraps, the Skyline High football rattled off another memorable season. The Spartans rolled to another state championship to give Hanken a welcome distraction. He also continued to play golf, despite the worsening tremor, and enjoyed his time on the links.

“It’s when I feel the Parkinson’s the least,” Hanken said recently.

Ron Hanken 2

Hanken’s physical activity has been affected by the disease, but he understands the importance of staying active so that the Parkinson’s doesn’t progress. Sometimes all he needs is a good walk to liven up. And when he takes a walk that helps raise money for Parkinson’s Disease and also brings his family together, that makes Hanken feel even better.

When asked to explain his favorite reason for doing the annual PD walk, Hanken said: “The joining of my family being there and supporting me and just seeing other people with Parkinson’s dealing with it in a positive way.”

This year would mark the third year of the walk, and Hanken has been on each of the first two. He surrounds himself with family members – all of his grandchildren, ranging in age from 11 years old all the way down to 2, are expected to make the two-mile walk – and can feel their love as they venture through the Magnuson Park trails.

He’s also amazed by how far the walk has come in such a short time. And he encourages anyone – with or without a Parkinson’s connection – to join him on July 30.

“It’s an opportunity for them to help a foundation for something that could affect them and their loved ones,” Hanken said. “It’s a chance for us to help the future be healthy. Just a great cause for a lot of people.”

Team Parkinsons NWPF No Year

Team Parkinson's Walk Seattle
Saturday, July 30, 2016
Registration: 8:30 a.m.
Walk: 9:30 a.m.
Magnuson Park | Seattle, WA
Register and donate at www.teamparkinsons.org

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