We’ll be reckoning with the damage inflicted by COVID-19 for decades.
The memories we will never get to make.
A dark, miserable 12-plus months.
Life is slowly starting to feel like it’s on the way back to normal and the moments, or even seconds, that we are able to step out of the darkness of the pandemic are precious.
There are signs all around us that the Florida economy is on the rebound. But look past the retail, tourism and services that form the backbone of our economy and you’ll find many more reasons to still be concerned.
Many nonprofits and community-service organizations are shells of their former selves, struggling to provide the very services that, ironically, people need more than ever.
At the Parkinson Association of Central Florida, we’re haven’t been immune.
Our annual “Walk for Parkinson’s” — our only large, public fundraiser each year — has been canceled for a second consecutive year (although we did have a virtual walk in 2020).
This event raises a huge percentage of the funds for services and research that are critical to the Parkinson’s community. So while the funding for our nonprofit has slowed down, Parkinson’s hasn’t.
As a member of our Parkinson’s community, I know this all too well.
I’ve been fighting the fight against this nasty, degenerative neurological disease for many years and am all too familiar with the depression it can bring on and the cognitive sluggishness that comes along with it.
That said, I’m definitely one of the lucky ones.
My care is overseen by internationally renowned movement disorder specialists and my support system of friends and family is unmatched. I’m blessed.
But so many others in our Parkinson’s community aren’t so lucky.
The isolation that has come to define the COVID-19 pandemic can be especially difficult for Parkinson’s patients to navigate, especially when it’s combined with the suspension of services critical to their quality of life.
The visual symptoms of Parkinson’s are often more pronounced when patients are exposed to stress or experience inconsistent sleep, both of which can lead patients to withdraw even further from life, friends and family.
In many ways that makes COVID-19 the perfect storm for those with Parkinson’s. It’s time to get our lives — and our care — back on track. We really can’t wait another day.
The difficult of reaching the people who need the support has forced the Parkinson Association of Central Florida and all nonprofits to get creative when it comes to fundraising.
We’re doing so with a virtual wine tasting on May 15 that will have sommeliers from wineries in Napa Valley and Italy video conferencing with our supporters to take them through their wines that we’re drinking from our homes in Central Florida.
Other nonprofits have tried a variety of different virtual fundraising solutions. Some work, some don’t — but almost none of them generate the awareness and funds that the in-person events have traditionally provided.
We know people are champing at the bit to return to travel, attractions and the fun of their previous lives. I am, too. Personally, I can’t wait to see a packed Orlando Magic game or a raucous UCF football game.
So, as we start to emerge from our pandemic-induced caves of isolation, we’re also asking you and your wallets to do the same.
Nonprofits rely on the generosity of all of us to help lift up and support the services that are critical to their health and quality of life of our neighbors.
They’ve never needed us more.
John Gabriel is an adviser and former general manager for the Orlando Magic and current president of the Parkinson Association of Central Florida. For more information on PACF and its virtual wine tasting event, go to parkinsoncf.org.