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Being Thankful

by Lauren Simmons

Can you believe it's November and the holiday season is upon us?  Did any of you anticipate that you would still be hunkering down at home due to Covid?  We may all be celebrating Thanksgiving differently than we expected but we can still be thankful for what we have. I think I have always been thankful for first responders, doctors, nurses, and emergency providers but this year, I am more mindful to thank the essential workers that are keeping life moving along.  While some things like toilet paper and hand sanitizer may have been scarce, we were still able to get most necessities of daily living. That would not have happened without people willing to drive trucks and work in stores.

This year, I am especially  thankful for the technology available so we can keep in touch with friends and even have medical visits right from home. I am thankful to the organizations that are keeping us educated and even entertained with webinars and Zoom meetings on a daily basis.  I am thankful for the support group leaders who continue to check in and keep us connected by holding virtual meetings.  I am thankful for the professionals who have spent hundreds of hours teaching online exercise classes so we can all stay as healthy as possible. I am thankful for the caregivers who have an added burden with Covid, sometimes being the only one that can safely go out and do errands and may be feeling isolated much more than before.  And I am thankful for good health.  I pray that you and your loved ones have stayed healthy through this crisis and will continue into the next year in good health.  During this holiday season, don't forget to thank those who are helping make life a little easier right now.

PEP4U Offers PD Education Hour

by Ernie Atkins

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a progressive, degenerative neuromuscular disease. On its own, that description carries a ton of information that people with Parkinson’s (PWP) need to understand and accept.

Learning about PD equips you with the knowledge and awareness that will be instrumental in your life-long journey with this disease.

Expert information is the key to understanding your symptoms, expressing issues with your neurologist, and improving your quality of life as you battle PD.

Because expert knowledge is so empowering, PEP4U offers a weekly PD Education Hour. These free, online Zoom sessions occur bi-weekly on Fridays at 10 AM PT. Everyone is welcome, PWP and caregivers, from southern CA to Maine and beyond.

Past sessions have covered PD-specific concerns ranging from cognitive issues to the benefits of trekking with poles, from a study of anxiety and depression to the wonders of mindful meditation.

These Zoom sessions include resources (printed, webinars, discussions) from premier organizations, including the Davis Phinney Parkinson’s Foundation, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, MJ Fox Foundation, and other professionals.

Join us next Friday at 10:00 AM PT.  Use this Zoom link for all our live education hours. Listen, learn, contribute, and enjoy meeting new PWP. At PEP4U, we’re all in this together.

P.S.  We archive all past sessions on the PEP4U website.

PD Buzz is Growing!

by Lauren Simmons

Four years ago, I was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.  While reeling from my diagnosis and dealing with my symptoms, my family and I were left with the task of finding resources in my area to help me.  I am fortunate that there were many classes, groups and specialists near my home but finding them was not so easy.  It took hours of online research and phone calls.  I needed someone else with Parkinson's to talk to and guide me and until I found that person, my Parkinson's journey was a maze of confusion.  Fast forward a couple of years, and I was hearing from people frequently that they were having the same issue.  The problem was not a lack of help but finding the help and finding it easily and quickly after diagnosis.  This problem led to the founding of a new website,, which was a "one stop shop" for all things Parkinson's in my hometown, Orange County, California.  It is a database of Parkinson's fitness classes, programs, services, support groups, specialists and events and we have started a peer program to give the person with PD or their care partner someone to talk to. With the support of the Parkinson's Wellness Fund and some dedicated friends, was launched in December of 2018. It is run by a group of people with Parkinson's helping people with Parkinson's.

Parkinson's Warriors
Candace Mueller and Kenna Diaz PD Buzz Springfield, Illinois

A couple of months ago, I mentioned PD Buzz in a Zoom meeting full of women with  Parkinson's.  Shortly after the meeting, I was contacted by a couple of superhero PD Advocates, Candace Mueller and Kenna Diaz,  who checked out PD Buzz and wanted the same thing for their town, Springfield, Illinois.  Others have made the same request in the past and I always dismissed the idea because keeping the site updated for just Orange County was proving to be a daunting task and I am not a trained web person.  I am learning as I go because I believe strongly that people with PD need to find resources as soon as possible after their diagnosis and I want that to be easier than it has been in the past. I want it to be easier than it was for me. Maybe it was the timing of this request from the ladies in Springfield that made me consider saying yes this time.  I know it had something to do with a strong urging from Russell Meyerowitz at the Parkinson's Wellness Fund.  When I told him  about the requests to expand and said that I wasn't a web person and  I didn't know how to do this, he said, "But you already are doing it and if you can help just one more person with Parkinson's tomorrow, then you are successful."  He got me right there.

Things fell into place after that.  A couple of us from PD Buzz in Orange County met virtually with the ladies in Springfield and got the process started.  They were able to collect the information on their local Parkinson's resources and pass it along to a family member who works in web development  and  as they say, the rest is history.  Recently, we added PD Buzz Springfield to our website.  It is exciting to think that we are helping more people with Parkinson's and who knows, maybe we will be growing more in the future.  It may be a slow process but as my friend Russell said, you just have to help one more person with Parkinson's tomorrow.  I think we can do that.

Meet Connie Anderson

People with Parkinson's in North Orange County have been asking for a Rock Steady Boxing location near them for years.  Connie Anderson made their wishes come true by opening a Rock Steady in Anaheim, Ca.  Connie's boxers will tell you that their group is like family and will attest to the fact that exercise is helping them stay well.  During Covid, Connie has taken her classes online so that her fighters can continue exercising at home.  Their classes whether in person or online are always full of laughter.  You can also find Connie running the Capriana Warriors Parkinson's support group which is also meeting virtually during the pandemic.  For more information on Connie's group, you can reach her at


Find more information on building your care team here.


PEP4U is a Parkinson's specific fitness program in Orange County, California.  They offer exercise classes led by professional instructors trained in Parkinson's Disease exercise promoting balance, coordination, strength, and overall movement. Their classes include yoga, PWR Moves, strength  and cardio classes, multitasking and cognition classes,  and shadow boxing.  Best of all, it is all free.  PEP4U is a non-profit organization supported by donations.

Typically, you can find this great group getting fit at the YMCA in Laguna Niguel.  Due to the pandemic, they have taken their classes online.  You can participate in live online classes or choose a recorded class to do on your own schedule. You can find more information on the PEP4U site.

Find more information about building your care team.

Meet Donna Clervi

Rock Steady Boxing M.E. FitnessDonna Clervi is a certified Rock Steady Boxing coach in South Orange County, California. When you meet Donna, one of the first things you will notice is her passion for helping others.  She is tough on the outside and will make you work your hardest but on the inside, she has a heart of gold. She truly wants her fighters to succeed in living their best life with Parkinson's. She sets  high standards for her boxers and then shows them how to help themselves in slowing  Parkinson’s progression.

Donna comes to Rock Steady Boxing M.E. Fitness after more than 30 years in the healthcare industry.  Along with being a coach for people with Parkinson's,  Donna facilitates the South Orange County Parkinson's Support Group and runs the Donna Clervi Foundation which supports, encourages, and trains people living with Parkinson's. Those who have worked with Donna in efforts to help the community would say she sets the gold standard for volunteers.  She is a professional who has brought a lifetime of hard work and decision making to the local Parkinson's organizations she works with.  

You can contact Donna at or

Find more information on building your care team.

Meet Erin Drake Angelo

Erin is the founder and owner of  RX Ballroom Dance. She provides dance therapy to people with Parkinson's all over Orange County. Inspired by a grandmother who struggled with Parkinson’s, Erin combined her professional dance skills and teaching background to create Rx Ballroom Dance. Their mission is to use ballroom dance to preserve and enhance the quality of life in people who are confronting neurological conditions. The program consists of weekly ballroom dance classes specifically designed to engage both the body and mind to alleviate symptoms of Parkinson’s. Using choreography to learn these dances also helps to stimulate brain activity and improve memory recall. For all participants, ballroom dance helps with: Parkinson's Dance Therapy

  • Physical coordination and balance
  • Mental stimulation and memory recall
  • Social and emotional states growth

When you meet Erin, you will quickly see that her enthusiasm is contagious.  She loves what she does and welcomes not just people with neurological problems but their caregivers and/or spouses as well. She is proud to tell you that all her classes are 100% free.  RX Ballroom Dance is funded completely through donations.

Due to the Covid pandemic, Rx Ballroom is currently offering online Zoom Classes as an alternative to in person classes so members can stay active and continue dancing. You can get more information at Rx Ballroom Dance or email Erin at

Meet Karen Skipper

Parkinson's Music Therapist

Karen Skipper is a Board Certified Music Therapist and the director of the Orange County Tremble Clefs. The Tremble Clefs is a therapeutic singing group that serves people with Parkinson's.  Karen's goals for her group are to:

  • Enhance and maintain vocal and physical skills through vocal exercise and movement
  • Promote interaction and communication within the Parkinson's community: caregivers and family as well as patients
  • Share music with others and promote a better understanding of Parkinson's disease.

It would be difficult to find one of Karen's clients who doesn't love singing with her group.  When her group shows up to an event, you can feel the joy in the room.  They truly show that music is not only good for the body and mind but the soul as well.  Karen demonstrates a passion for helping those with Parkinson's not only by leading the Tremble Clefs but by frequently speaking at support groups.  Her passion is obvious when you hear her.

Most recently, due to the Covid crisis, Karen has taken her group online which has enabled even more people with Parkinson's to join in from all over the world.  You can get more information at or email Karen at

"We look forward to singing with you."

Meet Gretchen Westgaard

Fighting Parkinson's in Orange CountyOrange County local, Gretchen Westgaard,  started her career in the fitness industry as a Pilates instructor.  When her mom was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, it seemed only natural that she would jump into the world of fitness for people with Parkinson's. After working with Ann Adams at Rock Steady Boxing Southern California, Gretchen decided to open her own Rock Steady affiliate.  She quickly got certified as a Rock Steady Boxing Coach and has been the owner of Rock Steady Boxing South OC for over four years.

RSB South OC classes are a blend of boxing,  cardio exercises, strength training and stretching. The class activities are designed to help improve balance, cognition, flexibility, vocal strength and even dexterity.   If you watch one of Gretchen's classes, you will not only notice the hard work but the laughter and smiles can not be ignored.

"Rock Steady South OC is a big family.  We laugh with each other and sometimes cry with each other but at the end of the day, we are there to support each other." You can reach Gretchen at

Fighting back at Rock Steady Boxing South OC