Wispact Foundation Grant Spotlight: Wisconsin Parkinson Association, Brookfield, WI

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Participants in a Wisconsin Parkinson Association, Urban Walking Pole Workshop

Interview with Kelly Cieslak, Executive Director

The Wisconsin Parkinson Association (WPA) is a statewide nonprofit with a mission of providing hope, community, support and resources for people with Parkinson’s and their loved ones.

“We want to connect people with the support they need to live their best lives possible under the circumstances,” emphasized Kelly Cieslak, Executive Director

“We have a network of support and exercise groups led by passionate individuals throughout the state. We also partner with human service agencies, medical professionals and other key stakeholders to connect people with resources they need to improve their physical and mental health. This includes social activities to instill a sense of community and have some fun,” she said.

One of the only known ways to slow the progression of the disease is movement and exercise and the Wispact Grant awarded to the Wisconsin Parkinson Association enabled them to purchase urban walking poles. Within a series of workshops across the state, individuals with Parkinson’s, and their care partners, attended coaching sessions which allowed them to learn how to properly use and work with the urban walking poles. Those able to utilize the poles experience a variety of benefits including improved core strength, posture, balance and enhanced confidence for walking.

“Walking and balance are huge challenges for individuals with Parkinson’s and our four workshops gave people a chance to try the polls with immediate coaching and feedback. Those who completed the training were able to take their poles home and immediately use them to improve the quality of their life by actively experiencing nature instead of being housebound,” Cieslak added.

One participant who received the poles was taking a walk and coincidentally passed his daughter’s workplace. At first, she thought she recognized her dad but thought it couldn’t be him because of how successfully and confidently he was walking. But as he came closer she recognized him and ran out to greet and congratulate him.

There are 15,000+ people in Wisconsin who have Parkinson’s and we are currently only reaching a percentage of them. We have expansion goals to reach many more. Because of the Wispact grant, we were able to expand programming that wouldn’t have happened otherwise. We couldn’t do this mission work without generous funding partners like Wispact and for that we are deeply grateful,” Cieslak concluded.

Wisconsin Parkinson Association is a 501c3 nonprofit that has served individuals with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and their families throughout Wisconsin since 1984. WPA is an independent nonprofit and all donations to WPA stay local to Wisconsin. You can learn more about WPA at wiparkinson.org.

The Wispact Inc. Foundation was established in 2021 and provides charitable grants to non-profit organizations to improve the lives of persons with disabilities across Wisconsin.