By Rick Coates
Boxing legend Muhammad Ali is one of the most recognized figures in the world; despite not setting foot in the ring in 30 years Ali remains a popular figure. Today he is better known as the most famous person battling Parkinsons disease, a far cry from his floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee, and I am the greatest days.
Alis daughter Rasheda will be in Traverse City on Thursday, June 3 to be the guest speaker at the 25th Anniversary Dinner to benefit the Grand Traverse Area Parkinsons Support Group. The dinner follows their annual summer forum that features Dr. Stanley Fahn, M.D., Scientific Director of the Parkinsons Disease Foundation and Chairperson of the Parkinsons Community Research Advisory Council of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson Research.
Rasheda Ali will also sign copies of her book Ill Hold Your Hand So You Wont Fall: A Childs Guide to Parkinsons Disease during the cocktail hour at the historic Traverse City Opera House. Her speech will include a special message from her father.
Never lose faith and never stop living each day to the fullest extent possible. Those are my fathers words not only to those battling Parkinsons but also to the friends and families, said Ali. He adds these additional words of encouragement. I wish all who find themselves part of this courageous battle much luck and I send them my gratitude and love.
Much of Rasheda Alis focus has been in supporting those who have family members battling Parkinsons.
For those who do not have a family member or close friend battling Parkinsons, you are unaware of the stress and frustration levels those of who do are under, said Ali. I am a proponent of creating awareness to the needs of those caring for someone with Parkinsons. Just simply volunteering a few hours a week to help a friend is a great way. Certainly donating money to organizations that are working towards a cure or to organizations that are providing support is another way to help.
Until she was invited by the Grand Traverse Parkinsons Support Group to come in and speak she was unaware of the organization.
Here they have been around for 25 years and I was unaware of them. But I am very impressed at what they have accomplished. I cant wait to visit and learn more about their efforts, said Ali. I have two young children so I limit my travel, but I felt anything I could do to help create awareness for them I was in favor of doing. I have been to Michigan several times to visit my father who used to live in Berrien Springs, but never this far north.
Ali has a full day visiting the region including an appearance on the Omelette & Finster show on WKLT, visiting with elementary school children and attending the Parkinsons forum at the City Opera House in the afternoon.
Parkinsons Disease (PD) is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that often impairs the sufferers motor skills, speech, and other functions. If caught early the progression of the disease may be slowed with drug and dietary treatments. But that is the key, catching the disease early.
I am still amazed at how often people with Parkinsons are misdiagnosed. I had a friend who went to his doctor and that doctor attributed my friends tremors to side affects to medicine he was taking. But I grew up watching my father and so I knew my friend had Parkinsons, said Ali. He went to a motion disorders physician and I was right; I want to encourage anyone who has any of the four cardinal features, those being tremors, rigidity, akinesia and postural changes to get in and see a specialist.
As for research towards creating a cure Ali feels a lot is being accomplished.
I am impressed with the efforts to date, sure there is always more that can be done. Certainly my father and Michael J. Fox are to be commended for their efforts. My fathers foundation is focused on providing assistance and care for those currently with Parkinsons and Michaels is focused on finding a cure, said Ali. My father admires Michael very much, they have become good friends and both have used their celebrity to further along research and to assist those suffering and their families.
Muhammad Ali had many great moments throughout his career, winning a Gold Medal in the 1960 Olympics, during the 60s and 70s he was the preeminent heavyweight boxer in the world. His greatest moment might well have been at the 1996 Summer Olympics when he lit the Olympic Flame. There were few dry eyes as a trembling Ali lit the Olympic Calderon.
It was a great moment for my father, said Ali. He has faced the disease head-on just as he did every opponent he met in the ring.
So how is Muhammad Ali doing today?
He is doing well. I am so proud of him, he remains active. He flew into Vegas last month to watch the Mayweather fight, he loves boxing and gets out to matches as often as possible, said Ali. He also goes out to the movies, dinner and walks as often as possible. He feels its important to set an example to others; and also even with Parkinsons you still should pursue quality of life.
The Grand Traverse Area Parkinsons Support Group is celebrating their 25th Anniversary this year with their annual summer forum on June 3, at the Hagerty Center, to be followed by a special 25th Anniversary Dinner featuring guest speaker, Rasheda Ali. The historic Traverse City Opera House will host the event from 6pm to 9pm, with a book signing opportunity from 5:30-7:00pm as well. To learn more about the event as well as the Grand Traverse Parkinson Support Group visit www.gtaparkinsonsgroup.org