"Volunteer, Feel Better"
One man’s story reveals the healing power of getting involved.
It is possible to help others, while occasionally needing help yourself. It is also possible that the act of volunteering may boost your mood. Just ask Parkinson Coalition ambassador Ryan Tripp, who speaks on behalf of the group and promotes its event, the World Parkinson Congress (WPC). After practically creating his role, Tripp became one of 12 inaugural global WPC ambassadors around the time of the WPC 2013 in Montreal; the positions were created to advance the WPC goal of inclusion and to cultivate more community leaders like Tripp. “My cup is usually half full, not half empty,” he says.
Tripp didn’t always feel confident that he could manage his PD symptoms and be able to volunteer. A lifelong athlete and passionate physical education teacher, he was diagnosed with PD at 47, forced to take disability leave from his job, and plunged into depression. After he received counseling through a local PD support group, he says that pursuing ways he could support others helped him cope. He regained pride and an appreciation for work that he had not felt since his diagnosis. “My role as a WPC ambassador is similar to my roles as a parent and a teacher. I strive to provide an inclusive educational environment and I encourage others’ participation in events. My volunteering style is an extension of my lifestyle,” Tripp says.
Like him, others diagnosed with PD are finding opportunities to talk about PD groups’ agendas in schools, write letters to state representatives, and use social media to broadcast events or rally monetary donations for PD causes. Sometimes such tasks may take one to three hours a month. Most everywhere, commitments are increasingly individual, online and uplifting—all reasons that make volunteering worthwhile for Tripp.
He plans to serve as an ambassador again in the fall of 2016 for the WPC 2016 in Portland, Ore. “It is my responsibility to be part of the solution,” he says.
Give Back on Your Terms
Volunteer virtually. Donating your skills entirely online is an empowering trend. Find opportunities at skillsforchange.com.
Raise funds online too. American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) provides a template and hosting support to help you create a page to attract donors to its site. Visit apdaparkinson.org/PersonalCampaign.
Share your experience. Your personal story is valuable to others battling PD. The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) invites you to try blogging about yourself as a way to inspire others at pdf.org/en/personal_stories.
Originally printed in MoreThanMotion, June 2016.