Kansas House of Representatives declares April as Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

  TOPEKA, Kans. March 23, 2016 — For the fourth consecutive year, the Kansas House of Representatives formally declared the month of April as Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.

The proclamation took place on the house floor on Wednesday, March 23rd. This year, the resolution was introduced by Representative Troy Waymaster (R-Russell), Representative J.R. Claeys (R-Salina), Representative Ramon Gonzalez (R-Perry), and Representative Pete DeGraaf (R-Mulvane).

“Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in our nation,” said Waymaster. “Sadly, not enough people are acquainted with the disease, the symptoms, and who it affects. My thoughts and prayers are with those who suffer. It’s my honor to introduce this resolution.”

The proclamation has special meaning to Rep. DeGraaf, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2015.

“It’s a personal honor to be co-sponsoring this proclamation. Being a Parkinson’s patient, this effort is very important to me,” said DeGraaf. “While I cannot control the fact that I have the disease, I can control how I respond. A positive attitude on my part and the support of my wife, family, and friends are essential as I move forward.”

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month was first proclaimed by the Kansas House in 2013 when it was sponsored by Representative Ronald Ryckman (R-Meade). In 2014, the resolution was once again sponsored by Ryckman and co-sponsored by Representative Marshall Christmann (R-Lyons). In 2015, the resolution was co-sponsored by Representative Fred Patton (R-Topeka) and Representative Gail Finney (D-Wichita).

“For four years, the House of Representatives has commemorated Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Each year we do this proclamation we are that much closer to a cure,” said Rep. Ramon Gonzalez. “Every time we have the opportunity to bring awareness to this disease is time well spent.”

During the ceremony, Gonzalez announced that he too suffers from Parkinson’s disease.

“My handwriting has gotten a lot worse, and I’m really starting to notice my tremor,” said Gonzalez.

Each year, the resolution has been coordinated by former Representative J. Basil Dannebohm (R-Ellinwood). In the summer of 2012, Dannebohm was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. Since that time, he has been an advocate for Parkinson’s Disease research, treatment and awareness.

“I am incredibly grateful to Speaker Merrick, Representative Waymaster, Representative Claeys, Representative Gonzalez, Representative DeGraaf, and the Kansas House of Representatives for once again taking time to recognize Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month,” said Dannebohm. “The Kansas House joins with individuals and organizations from around the world who are committed to promoting awareness and working toward a cure.”

Dannebohm joined his former colleagues on the House floor for the ceremony. Others in attendance included: Michelle Haub, co-creator and Director of the Parkinson’s Program of Manhattan at Meadowlark Hills in Manhattan, KS; Parkinson’s patient, Matthew Schindler and his wife, Susan; Parkinson’s patient, Lisa Reser and her family; and Courtney Blankenship, a supporter of Parkinson’s disease awareness.

In 2005, an estimated 5,500 Kansans suffered from Parkinson’s Disease. By 2014, that number had increased to an estimated 14,000.

“Parkinson’s affects far too many Kansans. These folks aren’t a statistic, they’re our friends and neighbors and the attention they are bringing to this issue will someday lead to a cure,” said Representative J.R. Claeys.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects nearly one million people in the US. Although promising research is being conducted, there is currently no cure for or definitive cause of Parkinson’s disease.