Parkinson’s Foundation ‘Moving Day’ returns to Dayton

Larry Taylor (left) celebrates a joint birthday with his wife Teresa in March of 2019. CONTRIBUTED
Larry Taylor (left) celebrates a joint birthday with his wife Teresa in March of 2019. CONTRIBUTED

Local family supports in honor of husband and father

Prior to the summer of 2017, Jennifer Taylor of Dayton, her siblings and her mother, Teresa, didn’t know anything about Parkinson’s Disease (PD), a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and difficulty with walking, balance, and coordination. PD affects nearly one million Americans with 60,000 new cases diagnosed each year.

Taylor, an account manager with McGohan Brabender and the oldest of three, was born and raised in Dayton, graduated from Belmont High School, and now lives in the same neighborhood where her parents still live.

“My dad has a twin brother, Jerry, and they worked together at the same tool and die shop until the mid-1980s,” Taylor said.

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Though his brother moved on to a different career, Taylor’s dad worked at the same shop until he retired at age 66. Taylor said he was excited to travel with her mom and do some work around the house.

Shortly after he retired, Taylor’s dad began to have difficulty remembering simple tasks and was forgetting projects he’d already started. Taylor’s mom thought he could be developing dementia.

“We were watching the Delco fireworks in Kettering on July 4, 2017,” Taylor said. “My dad was really having an off day and my niece, who is a nurse, suggested we take him to a specialist.”

Taylor’s dad ended up going through several tests, including a CAT scan and MRI. At the age of 68, he was diagnosed with PD.

“When you hear this diagnosis, that’s the only thing you hear – the name of the disease,” Taylor said. “My niece suggested we keep a notebook and take notes as his disease progressed.”

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Initially, Taylor said her dad’s disease was well controlled with medication. In addition, he regularly attended exercise classes designed to help PD patients experience a slower decline in their quality of life. Regular exercise is important because it helps maintain balance, mobility and the ability to perform daily routines.

Then, about a year ago, those classes, along with just about everything else, shut down, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Larry Taylor, like so many other Parkinson’s patients, no longer had access to the therapies that were important to staving off the effects of the disease.

“By the end of 2020, his neuro balance classes opened again, but in the meantime, Dad’s speech went from being OK to losing the ability to carry on conversations,” she said.

Her dad’s voice was slowly disappearing. She remembers him always singing in the choir, serving as a Boy Scoutmaster and a trustee at Belmont United Church, and talking like the Disney character Donald Duck. Today, he speaks in a whisper.

“I would say two years into this disease, we understood what it was and knew it was progressing,” Taylor said. “And we may never know what caused it.”

In fact, about 50% more men than women end up being diagnosed with PD and scientists believe the causes are both environmental and genetic.

In 2019, the first Parkinson’s Foundation “Moving Day” event was held at Island MetroPark. Taylor and her entire family, including her dad’s twin brother, attended the event. Larry Taylor walked a few times around the short route that year.

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“We didn’t really know what to expect,” Taylor said. “The opening ceremony was powerful and so was seeing all the people there and how Parkinson’s affects them.”

Taylor met Breck Jordan, a Dayton resident whose dad, Ronnie, was also diagnosed with PD while he was in his late 50′s. Jordan invited Taylor and her family to a PD seminar, and they traded phone numbers. Jordan was ready to start planning the 2020 Moving Day event and invited Taylor to join the planning committee.

“We were going to have it on May 16, 2020 and then COVID hit,” Taylor said.

This year, the Parkinson’s Foundation plans to bring back the Moving Day event on May 1. To comply with social distancing guidelines and keep everyone safe, it will be held at the Dixie Twin Drive-In in Dayton with all participants remaining in their own vehicles.

“While there won’t be a physical walk this year, people will be able to pull their cars in, visit vendors from a distance and then watch the opening ceremony on the screen,” Taylor said. “This disease is life changing, and we hope people will come to learn more about it.”

For more information, visit movingdaywalk.org/event/moving-day-dayton.

Contact this contributing writer at banspach@ymail.com.