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Why Michael J. Fox? It’s because they have a couple of things in common. He has a daughter the same age as Jenna and he lives with the same disease as her dad, who is two days older than Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2011, and they were both born in Canada, and they both raise funds for Parkinson’s Disease research, and they are both making a difference in the lives of people living with PD. The difference is that Michael J. Fox is 51 years old and Jenna, well, Jenna is 11 years old. All of this goes to show that age is not a factor when you are committed to a cause. She has hopes of meeting Michael J. Fox someday, but in the meantime, she continues her work as an advocate for Parkinson’s Disease research. Chances are that if Mr. Fox calls to visit with her, she will have to return his call because she’ll be out working on her goal of surpassing last year’s amount raised.

Many people wait a lifetime to get things done, and others like my grandson Landon start out at an early age as an advocate when he tells people he meets, “If you shake like my Pop Pop, you need to go see a doctor because you might have ‘Parkins’ Disease”. I first read about Jenna in a post her dad, Blair, shared on FB. Her advocacy focus is on raising funds to support research. She reminded me of my grandson and his mission to raise awareness and educate people about Parkinson’s Disease, and she impressed me with her quest to raise funds for Parkinson’s research. And raise funds she did!. What follows is only part of what an impressive young lady from Manitoba, Canada, has done to help make PD a thing of the past.

The unconditional love our children give us seems to multiply exponentially when they find out that we have been diagnosed with an incurable disease, which in our case happens to be Young-Onset Parkinson’s Disease. Their passion for making our lives better includes making sure we are going to be ok, advocating on our behalf, and doing their part in finding a cure.

Jenna and her younger brother Tyler found out that their dad had Parkinson’s Disease almost a year after his diagnosis. Blair’s reason for waiting to tell them was that “having young children, we wanted to bring it across in a positive manner so they wouldn’t be overwhelmed or frightened”. Interestingly enough, Jenna and some of her friends were raising funds for another cause when her parents decided that the opportune time was at hand and they asked the kids if they had ever heard of Parkinson’s Disease. When they replied that they had not, Blair and his wife had the courage to say that “dad has the disease and that they didn’t need to worry because I was doing great but over the yearss I would tremor more and slow down”. Learning from this conversation that dad was going to be ok, Jenna immediately turned her fund-raising focus to Parkinson’s Disease research. Blair describes the goals that Jenna had from the beginning as being lofty, but that there was no way he was going to talk her out of goals that she has attained, and much more. The following conversation, to me, says just about all that there is to this young lady and her unwillingness to quit. “I asked her what her goal was, and she replied $1,000, I said how about $100?, she replied $1,000. I answered how about $500?, and don’t be discouraged if you don’t get to that amount and anything you do is appreciated. Jenna grabbed a pen and paper and wrote her speech. “Hi, I’m doing fundraising for the Parkinson’s SuperWalk and was wondering if you could sponsor the many people living with Parkinson’s Disease, including my dad. The money raised will go to finding a cure”.

Blair also shared, “She asked her mom to go out into the neighborhood and went out to start her journey going door to door, two and a half hours later she returned with $567 and in 3 days had raised over $1,200! Jenna was on a mission to raise funds and awareness for PD. It was a week before her 11th birthday and she was at $3,000 and her new goal was to reach $5,000 by that day. She wouldn’t go home until a sponsor sheet was full or a dollar amount. Jenna would not let her mother go home until the daily goal was achieved. Jenna reached her goal by her 11th birthday”. A local businessman from Winnipeg, Mark Evans, was so moved by her story that he decided to match the amount that Jenna had raised. With his help, Jenna’s total amount raised stood at $10,000!! She actually continued collecting money up until the SuperWalk in Sept. 2012 and raised an amazaing $11,626, putting her as #11 nationally for the walk. Pretty impressive.

I’ve written in previous posts about the “elusive curb fish” that my grandson won’t give up on until he catches one. [Landon was holding a stick with a string attached and mentioned that he was hoping to catch a fish while sitting on the curb. I need to mention that there was no water anywhere in sight. As our neighbors started arriving home from work, each would look over, would pause, say hello, and ask what we were up to. The response was that Landon was hoping to land the “elusive curb fish”, and that he wasn’t going to give up until he found one and caught it. Needless to say that some of the responses we received were not too favorable in our quest to find that elusive fish. This young man, whom with his dad, knows all about the world of fishing and the best way to land the big one, would wave them away and get back to the task at hand.] This speaks to the resilience and dedication that our children and grandchildren have when it comes to having the eternal optimism that what they do will make a difference. That “elusive curb fish” for those of us living with Parkinson’s Disease is the cure that will end needless suffering for millions around the world. I’ll be the first to say that what Jenna and Landon have done has already made a difference in countless lives. What they do in the future will help us find a cure for this debilitating disease because they don’t have an ounce of “quit” in them. When we get word that a cure has been found for Parkinson’s Disease, our young advocates will be the first to say, “I told you we wouldn’t give up until a cure was found!”

And…speaking of not quitting..this year Jenna has designed a bookmark called “Toonies for Tulips” for Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and that is only the beginning. She has asked her school for permission to have her bookmarks available for sale (minimum $2 donation) from April 11-19, recruited Subway to sponsor the event with a coupon for a free apple slice or cookie for the first donation. The classroom that raises the most funds will receive a free lunch. Cineplex Entertainment was also recruited to help out by donating 6 movie passes to be given away. Her class has gotten involved in designing posters to advertise this event, and on April 11th, to kick off the event, Parkinson’s Society Manitoba will be hosting an assembly to bring awareness to the disease. One more thing, if you happen to be at McNally Robinson bookstore, her bookmark will be available for purchase during April.

Anyone interested in helping Jenna surpass the amount raised for last year can contact her at: blair0002@shaw.ca

The following are some links to Jenna’s outreach efforts:

http://www.winnipegsun.com/2012/08/13/girl-raises-5k-to-fight-dads-parkinsons

http://parkinsonpost.com/2012/09/20/coast-to-coast-support-for-parkinson-superwalk/

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/local/fathers-diagnosis-a-call-to-action-166728686.html

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