Firefighters face higher risk of diagnosis
The National Parkinson Foundation of Western New York (NPFWNY) celebrated its fifth annual Moving Day on Sunday, Sept. 11. Approximately 650 participants filled Coca Cola Field before departing on this fundraising walk along Buffalo's waterfront.
Tai chi, yoga, exercise, dance and drumming all kept the crowd moving throughout the morning.
More than $70,000 has been raised thus far, and the foundation still has three weeks to work toward achieving its goal of $90,000.
Moving Day is the organization's biggest fundraising event of the year - and it is more than just a walk. It is a celebration of movement, which is just as essential as medications in the battle against Parkinson's symptoms.
Parkinson's disease is a chronic progressive neurodegenerative disease for which there is no cure. It is the world's second-most-common neurodegenerative disease, behind Alzheimer's, and firefighters are three times more likely to receive a Parkinson's diagnosis than the general public. In an effort to raise awareness amongst first responders, the Lancaster Fire Department's new $1.3 million ladder truck was on hand, and it drew hordes of appreciative viewers.
"Firefighting gets in your blood. It's a generational thing. We stick together," former Chief Joe Ligammare said. "Families, kids especially, love it when we bring the trucks out, and we think the exposure is important."
Falling on 9/11, the Moving Day emphasis on firefighters was poignant.
Former Lancaster Fire Chief Jim Schaefer, this year's Moving Day Person of the Year, mentioned to the crowd, "On the back of every fire truck it used to say 'Stay back 500 feet.' Now, it says 'Stay back 343 feet' in recognition of the number of firefighters killed at 9/11."
Schaefer was diagnosed with Parkinson's four years ago, at the age of 44. He is among the nearly 9,000 Parkinsonians in Western New York, an area hard hit by the disease.
Donations are still arriving at the NPFWNY offices.
"We had a wonderful day, a great turnout, and there is still great enthusiasm for the effort. There is plenty of time to add to our totals, and our eyes are still on the goal," said Chris Jamele, executive director for NPFWNY. "Proceeds benefit our support groups, educational and therapeutic programming throughout the region."
Anyone who would like to make a donation or to find more information about Moving Day can visit www.MovingDayBufffalo.org.