Gift to Sun Health Foundation Kick-Starts Wellness Program for Parkinson’s Patients

Jim Dean does a ladder drill in a Neuro Wellness West class.

Jim Dean believes exercise is important to maintaining mobility as he ages. After being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2007, it became a necessity. Dean threw himself into a rigorous exercise routine that he’s kept up for the past six years. There’s no doubt in his mind, and in the minds of his wife, doctors and other health professionals, that the workouts have had a positive effect.

Seeing the results inspired Jim and his wife Sara to help fund Banner Neuro Wellness West, a new program at Banner Sun Health Research Institute (BSHRI) that provides exercise, education and support for people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders. The Deans donated $200,000 through Sun Health Foundation as a legacy gift from Sara’s mother who wanted her gift to go towards Parkinson’s care and research. The couple has also committed to additional funding to sustain new Parkinson’s programs and research at BSHRI.

“We wanted to find a way to give back to the community,” Sara said. “Exercise is key to continue living with this disease, and the institute is working to improve the quality of life for patients with neurological disorders. It is exactly where we want our donation to go.”

One of the Banner Neuro Wellness West fitness classes is called PWR!  Jim has been participating in the PWR! Fitness class since it started last fall and he enjoys the physical challenges.

“These are exercises I have never done before, and many are difficult,” Jim said. “But I’m determined to keep pushing because I know the effort I put in now will benefit me for years to come.”

“These programs are an opportunity for Parkinson’s patients to develop camaraderie while improving their physical abilities,” said Melinda Theobald, the exercise physiologist leading the PWR! Fitness classes. “By taking participants through various exercises targeting specific muscle groups, we can help maintain and improve their mobility and balance.” In addition to fitness and wellness classes, Banner Neuro Wellness West provides patients with an opportunity to participate in quarterly lectures and weekly support group meetings.

Neuro Wellness West class members get the knees up.

Neuro Wellness West class members get the knees up.

“Every Friday morning, Parkinson’s patients and their spouses are encouraged to come together for Coffee Talk,” said Tom Viviano, the program manager for Banner Neuro Wellness West. “Going through this disease alone can be difficult. Coffee Talk brings everyone together to better understand treatment, medication and even how to cope. Plus, the coffee and doughnuts are delicious.”

Banner Sun Health Research Institute will celebrate the new program with an open house from 10 a.m. to noon on Friday, Jan. 31. The open house will begin with formal remarks from 10 to 10:30 a.m., followed by educational booths and refreshments. The open house is free, but registration is recommended by calling (602) 230-2273 or signing up at www.BannerHealth.com/230CARE.

For more information about Banner Sun Health Research Institute, visit www.bannershri.org.