BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – With over 11,000 people living with Parkinson’s in Louisiana, exercise programs and support groups are few and far between. The Capital Area YMCA is changing that by offering new programs for people with this disease.

Thanks to the YMCA’s commitment to the community, they’ve been granted $20,000 for wellness programs for people with Parkinson’s.

“This allows us to offer more programming, additional resources. It allows us to have our instructors trained and readily available to serve our community in chronic disease programming,” said Healthy Lifestyles Executive Director Julie Russell.

The new initiative is called “Movement Matters.” Parkinson’s disease is much more common in people who are older than 50. Stacey Faver with the Parkinson’s Foundation Gulf Coast chapter said it’s important people stay ahead of its sometimes debilitating symptoms. 

“The number one thing people with Parkinson’s can do is movement. It’s the number one prescription, a lot of the times people want to get moving but they don’t know how to,” said Faver.

The YMCA is kicking off its initiative with a Pedaling Wellness program. Both Sally Palmer and Randy LeBlanc were diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2005 and say every day is a challenge but they get through it. 

“People think of Parkinson’s as just the shakes, for me, my Parkinson’s manifests itself as slow movement,” said LeBlanc. “I want people to know that this is not a death sentence, you don’t have to sit at home and waste away, there are people and programs that can help.”  

Palmer and LeBlanc want people to know they are more than their diagnoses. 

“I don’t advertise that I have Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s has me but I do not allow it to take my life, take my day-to-day. I just get up, put one foot forward and tackle the day as it comes,” said Palmer.

To learn more about Movement Matters, call 225-923-0653 or visit your local YMCA. To support the Parkinson’s Foundation Gulf Coast Chapter or to find more information about Parkinson’s Disease, visit parkinson.org/GulfCoast.