Purple Community Blog

13 Jul 2018

Brenda’s Story

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My husband, Todd, was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s in 2004 at the age of 41.  After coming to terms with his diagnosis, Todd decided to use his passion for golf to start a non-profit organization called “Making the Turn Against Parkinson’s” to raise funds benefitting local Parkinson’s patients and related organizations.

In just a few short years, Making the Turn Against Parkinson’s has raised over $125,000.  A significant portion of these funds have been used to subsidize an exercise program designed specifically for Parkinson’s patients. In partnership with the Sparrow Foundation, the Michigan Athletic Club (MAC) in East Lansing provides four weekly classes completely free of charge to local Parkinson’s patients.  These offerings have resulted in more than 9,000 class visits since the program began in 2015.   In addition, Making the Turn is the first and only non-profit organization in Michigan granting college scholarships specifically to young adults who have a family member struggling with Parkinson’s. To date, $15,000 has been awarded to students from families impacted by this disease.

Ever since Todd was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, his mindset has been to do something positive instead of sitting back and feeling sorry for himself and let the disease “win”.   As Todd’s wife, I see the struggles he faces daily and the frustration the disease brings him – the same struggles he tries to hide so well from the rest of his family, friends and co-workers.  I cannot begin to put into words how very proud I am of Todd for spending countless hours, along with sleepless nights, into organizing the best-run golf event most people have ever witnessed as well as the good work he is doing for the Michigan Parkinson’s community with his financial support to the MAC exercise program, the scholarship program and for helping other Parkinson’s organizations in financial need.

Todd has the good fortune of having an excellent doctor, Dr. Ashok Sriram, from Spectrum Health who is closely tied with the excellent research and technology the Van Andel Institute is involved in.  To watch Todd’s internal and external struggles with Parkinson’s, I thought what better way to support him than by running in the 2018 Chicago Marathon, alongside with my sister, Ann Schneider, and great friend, Tammy Anderson, in support of Making the Turn Against Parkinson’s and the Van Andel Institute.

Todd is an inspiration to so many – both with and without Parkinson’s disease.   I am so proud to be his wife.

To assist Brenda with her marathon efforts, please visit her fundraising page.

Pictured Above: Nick Hearn, Madison, Brenda and Todd Gardner