Steven Robbins and his family are no strangers to philanthropy. Their father taught them the importance of giving back to their community. “My dad always said it was better to give than to receive. He was a big proponent of giving back,” shared Steven. When Steven’s father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the Robbins family directed their passion for improving the lives of others to those who are affected by the disease.

The Robbins family was first introduced to the Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program at JF&CS through family friends. After visiting, they saw the unique services that exist to help those with Parkinson’s. Through therapeutic programming, such as chorus, dance and family support groups, JF&CS provides unique and invaluable services that address day-to-day life with Parkinson’s. “This service really wasn’t available when my dad was diagnosed,” Steven said. “When we visited JF&CS for the first time, we felt so hopeful after seeing how happy and friendly all the participants were,” said Doris Robbins, Steven’s mother.

Social Connection and Family Support

“Our program gives people a chance to be together without focusing on the disease,” said Anne Muskopf, director of Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support. “The groups are therapeutic and designed to address symptoms, but the experience of simply having fun is more prominent.” Social connections are an important aspect of living full, meaningful lives with Parkinson’s, and participants can help their bodies while also enjoying the value of arts and music in a social setting.

The Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program provides support for the whole family. “JF&CS gave us a much better understanding of the disease through the educational programs that we participated in,” said Steven. “They helped us understand what was going on, and we want other families to have the same opportunity.” Through weekly support groups for care partners, family members can share their experiences with others who are in the same situation. “This group is my lifeline,” said a care partner attendee. There are also quarterly education and networking groups, where all family members are welcome to hear from expert speakers in the field of Parkinson’s disease.

“JF&CS is in a unique position. First, we offer programs for the whole family and, secondly, we are able to follow along with the progression of the disease because of the other resources we have within our agency,” added Anne. Participants can access the free advice of CJP SeniorDirect and the care management of Your Elder Experts, for example, as part of the surrounding support for the challenges that arise with Parkinson’s.

Supporting Parkinson’s Outreach

After seeing the unique service that JF&CS provides, the Robbins family was inspired to help make a difference. They decided to fund Parkinson’s outreach at JF&CS in order to leave their mark on the agency that inspired them. The Robbins want other families to experience the same support they have witnessed. “I always had this feeling of wishing my husband could have experienced that, but I’m so happy that I can help others in some small way,” said Doris.

In supporting Parkinson’s outreach, the Robbins are spreading awareness of the impact of the Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program. With a focus on outreach, program staff are able to connect with providers and people living with Parkinson’s through individual meetings, presentations at symposia and participation at community wellness fairs. “These programs are a true gem; we want to make sure they’re not a hidden gem,” said Anne.

To learn more about our resources for people living with Parkinson’s disease, visit our Charlotte & Richard Okonow Parkinson’s Family Support program page.

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