What began as a personal journey to race again after an injury led to Melinda Parsons’ passion for fundraising for a cause close to her heart.
This is because her mother, Louvenia Audrey, of Moore, has Parkinson’s disease. Parsons began her journey by participating in the inaugural Parkinson Foundation Walk in the Park Event in 2011, and her involvement has grown every year, culminating with a position on the board of the Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma.
This year, she was asked to chair the 2014 Walk in the Park, a challenge she gladly accepted on behalf of her mother and the 15,000 Oklahomans who suffer with Parkinson’s.
Several years after her mother was diagnosed in 2004 with Parkinson’s disease, Parson started to notice a decline in her mother’s motor skills and her speech. In a search for information and services to help with her mother's condition, she found the Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma was holding a meeting to raise funds for a new speech therapy program called “Speak Out! Oklahoma.”
She attended the meeting with her mother and was given information about the 2011 Walk in the Park. She signed up to participate realizing it would benefit the foundation, but also as a desire to resume racing after suffering a compound fracture of her leg the previous year.
Audrey was unable to participate, but went to cheer on her daughter and to support the cause. The race was a struggle for Parsons and she was among the last to finish, as her leg was still on the mend. As she crossed the finish line, she looked up to see her mother’s face beaming with pride and gratitude.
That was when she really understood her involvement was much more than a race; her participation actually helped to fund the programs that were improving the quality of her mother's life. This was a major turning point, and when Parsons was asked to join the walk committee the following November, she didn’t hesitate.
Parsons was then invited to take a position on the board of directors and in 2013, she captained a team and took first place in fundraising.
The Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma helps the thousands of Oklahomans who have Parkinson’s disease and their families by organizing voice therapy, group exercise meetings, support groups, education, information and referrals.
The programs are funded by fundraising efforts like the Walk in the Park, scheduled for 2 p.m. May 4 in Stars and Stripes Park at Lake Hefner. Visit www.ParkinsonOklahoma.com for more information or to register.
Kathy Ford-Wallis is a volunteer with the Parkinson Foundation of Oklahoma.