[Skip to Content]

Empower Parkinson selected as Upstate's Your Cause charity for 2024

Upstate Medical University has selected Empower Parkinson Inc., as its 2024 Your Cause charity.

Empower Parkinson Inc., is dedicated to supporting the wellness of those living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in the local community, through a daily offering of exercise and holistic programming, including support groups, caregiver retreats, dance classes, Aikido, cycling, tai chi, yoga, nutrition classes, non-contact boxing, and educational sessions as well as several programs connected with a local therapy practice including pole walking, and amplitude-based group exercise.

More than 100 individuals participate in the organization’s programming; most are in their 70s, but individuals range in age from 40 to 90.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive disorder that affects the nervous system and the parts of the body controlled by the nerves. Symptoms of the disease include tremors, slowed movement, rigid musculature, poor posture and balance, decreased ability with unconscious movement, as well as changes in speech. There is currently no cure for the disease. Genetics and environmental factors are believed to the chief cause of the disease.

Exercise can have significant impact on living with the disease, such as improving motor coordination, sleep quality and gait and balance among other benefits.

The idea for the organization came in 2017 when founder and physical therapist Patrick VanBeveren was inspired by news coverage about a national exercise program designed for people living with Parkinson’s disease, called Rock Steady Boxing. Van Beveren recognized the potential that this type of program had to provide people with continuation of care beyond physical therapy and foster socialization and hope.

In selecting Empowering Parkinson as its Your Cause agency, Upstate will provide the agency with volunteer support and with up to $5,000 in funding through 2024.

VanBeveran thanked Upstate for its support and said the Upstate community will be part of a life-changing program.

VanBeveran has been moved by the dedication of the individuals with Parkinson Disease. “Faced with ongoing deterioration, these folks come to the gym work very hard and never complain,” he said. “They inspire me.”

Empower Parkinson board member Julie Lombardi, an Upstate board certified neurological clinical specialist, physical therapist and Health Professions faculty member, nominated the organization for Your Cause.

“This organization has value to me personally and professionally, Lombardi said. “Personally, my mother was diagnosed with PD at the time that this organization was started. She was able to start literally fighting against the disease on day one because this organization was there for her.

"As a physical therapist, I see the benefits that this has for my patients; it provides them with support that does not have an end point, and this gives them hope.”

Past Your Cause agencies include Frances House, Sarah’s Guest House, Rescue Mission Emergency Youth and Runaway Shelter, In My Father’s Kitchen, Clear Path for Veterans, OnPoint for College and Chadwick Residence.

Team Upstate works to promote public awareness of Upstate’s contributions to the community and to encourage volunteer participation among Upstate students, staff, faculty and retirees. Team Upstate sponsors activities and events annually that promote quality of life and maintain Upstate’s mission, vision and values. 

CAPTION: Upstate selects Empowering Parkinson as its 2024 Your Cause charity. From left are Linda Viet, MPH, Upstate assistant vice president for community relations; Patrick VanBeveran, DPT, Empowering Parkinson founder; Julie Lombardi, DPT, Emppowering Parkinson board member and faculty member at the College of Health Professions; and Zanette Howe, Upstate director of community relations and events.