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Enjoy Magazine

Parkinson's Support Group Helps Families

03/25/2018 11:00AM ● By Christy Milan

Peace of Mind

April 2018
By Christy Milan
Photos by James Mazzotta

WHEN PEOPLE THINK of Parkinson’s Disease, they might think of Michael J Fox, the actor from the “Back to the Future” movies. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1991 and has become a major influence in the fight against Parkinson’s. Most recently, singer-songwriter Neil Diamond was diagnosed.

Parkinson’s is a disorder of the central nervous system and is progressive. It can cause sleep disorders, anxiety, fantasizing, communication issues, dementia, instability and more. In April 2017, the U.S. Senate declared April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month. 

When diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disorder such as Parkinson’s, it can be difficult to know where to turn for answers. Here in the North State, a support group for those with Parkinson’s and their families has been active for nearly 20 years. The founder, Kim Hawkins, was a wife who wanted to start a support group and approached what is now known as Passages Caregiver Resource Center, a nonprofit organization through Chico State University. Hawkins, a retired nurse, took over its facilitation about five years ago. “I knew nothing about Parkinson's until I started facilitating this group,” Hawkins says. “I have learned so much from them. Everyone gets a chance to share and ask questions of each other. I feel so blessed to be part of this group and cannot imagine volunteering for a greater group of people.” 

The group appreciates the support and information that helps them through this difficult time. One participant says, “We have only recently started attending the support group, but every meeting that we have attended has been interesting and informative. We enjoy the encouragement of being in the company of others who also want to have a positive attitude while living with or caring for someone with this life-changing disease. We especially appreciate the volunteers and professional staff who so efficiently provide this program for Redding and surrounding areas.”  

Last year, the group became an affiliate of the Parkinson Association of Northern California, a nonprofit organization based out of Sacramento.  The group meets monthly at First United Methodist Church off East Street in Redding (though there will not be an April meeting).

Speakers have included primary physicians, nutritionists, speech therapists and physical therapists. The group works closely with others in the community who help people with Parkinson’s: Shasta Speech, The Rose Center for physical therapy, Vibra Outpatient Therapy and Rock Steady Boxing, which offers a program specifically for people with Parkinson’s. 

This year, the annual Parkinson’s Conference will be May 11 at First United Methodist Church. The free event includes informational tables and talks by a number of medical professionals.

A Parkinson’s diagnosis can leave patients and families with many unanswered questions and fears. The Parkinson’s group helps with the loneliness, desperation and loss of hope many feel when diagnosed. The support provides a sense of belonging alongside caring people who have a common bond. •

Register by May 4 at or (916) 357-6641

Conference Speakers

Kim Hawkins

Facilitator, RN

Dr. S. Goedert

Local neuro-optomistrist

Chris Netto

Owner, Standing

 Firm Fitness

Dr. M. Bixby

Movement Disorder Specialist

Shelley VonBerg 

Chico State 

University Professor,

Speech & Language Pathology

Susan Whitaker

Speech & Language Pathologist

Owner, Shasta Speech

Brian Terres

Medtronic Pharamceuticals

Deep Brain Stimulation


Mike Dendas, RPT

Rose Center Physical Therapy

Dr. S. Brillman

Movement Disorder Specialist

Parkinson Institute

Dr. Girgi


UC Davis Assistant Professor of Neurosurgery

“What’s New in the World of Neurosurgery for Parkinson’s?”

Photos: Speech and Language Pathologist and Owner of Shasta Speech, Susan Whitaker is doing “Shasta Shout”   

Facilitator Kim Hawkins answers questions during  a recent Parkinson’s support group meeting.

Attendees juggling scarves. Not only is it fun, it’s a great exercise—physically and for cognition.

Rock Steady Boxing offers a program specifically for people with Parkinson’s.