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Baguette and Red

Friday October 19, 2018

Baguette and Red

I am passionate about Parkinson’s research, education and advocacy. I participate in conferences. I have been a subject in over 20 studies. I review research grants for universities and the government. I serve various Parkinson's foundations in different roles. I travel for Parkinson's. I write about it.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking I do all this because I’m just a nice guy with time on his hands. I am in no way that altruistic. Not me. Nope. I do all this for selfish reasons, not because it’s the right thing or the noble thing or the honorable thing to do. You see, my dad had Parkinson’s. I have Parkinson's. I’m concerned and, frankly, fearful for my sons and grandsons. It is my fervent hope that we find treatments that slow or halt the progression of Parkinson’s or figure out how to prevent or cure this malady. I want to be the last generation to slowly, over time, deal with the increasing symptoms and side effects of Parkinson’s. I’m almost one hundred percent certain that won’t happen in my lifetime. Putting time, effort and money toward these goals, however, may make the difference in the long run—to the benefit of my progeny and, coincidentally, the entire Parkinson’s community.

There is a group of people that do things for the right reasons. They may have no direct link to Parkinson’s or some other cause but choose to make a difference anyway. They’re known as volunteers and rarely get the recognition and plaudits they deserve. For them, that’s OK—that’s not why they give time and effort to help others. What follows is a story about two of these people—two volunteers that want to make a difference. A couple that provides a role model for the rest of us. I’ll be using pseudonyms, so I won’t embarrass them too much by using their real names: Baguette and Red.

Baguette and Red have been together for almost thirty years. During that time, they have lived in Connecticut, Montana, Seattle and Spokane. They even lived on a boat for some time. They are familiar with the Pacific Northwest and what it has to offer and chose to settle in the area. They are normal people with jobs, a mortgage and car payments. Red and Baggy (he gets his share of abuse with some of his nick names) are active—their background includes rock climbing, hiking, sailing, kayaking, skiing, biking and bread making. They deal with their own issues just like any married couple. Unfortunately, they also deal with the circumstances of aging parents including Alzheimer’s.

Somehow, Baguette and Red heard about the tailgate party held at the end of the first Pass to Pass for Parkinson’s Disease in 2016 and volunteered to help. They knew none of the hikers and not much about Parkinson's. It just appealed to them as something that might be interesting. In addition, they wanted to acknowledge the accomplishment of this group of folks with a chronic and progressive neurological disease. They bought some sandwich makings, drinks, chips, desserts and then drove five hours to the trail head. (In this case, wouldn’t it be the trail end or trail tail?) A feast for those who had been on the hike for over a week was served and Baguette and Red made some new friends.

Fast forward to the summer of 2017 and now Baggy is a support hiker while Red is a trail angel. In 2018, they reenacted their roles. All of this represents an investment of time, energy and money. So, why do it? Remember, until the tailgate party they weren’t personally acquainted with anyone with Parkinson's. When that question was posed to them, it resulted in some hemming and hawing and finally something to the effect that they get more out of it than what they put into it. That, my friends, is what characterizes a true volunteer—selfless contribution to serve others.

Sandpoint is full of volunteers. It’s one of the attributes that make this a neat community. I’d start to list all the volunteers and groups, but I worry about leaving an individual or organization out and then we’d both feel bad. Nevertheless, I challenge each of us to do more, to take on a new cause or to step up your efforts with something you’re already doing. If you’re looking for an idea, think about becoming a control in a research project. Simply go to https://clinicaltrials.gov and pick something that looks interesting.

As someone familiar with neurotransmitters (or the lack thereof), I know that volunteering is also good for you—your brain releases biochemicals that make you feel better. Karma? Must be.

-A.C. Woolnough

Photo by Tobias Mrzyk on Unsplash

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