I want to tell you a story. It’s one that is 10 years in the making. I want to tell you how the story of me became the story of us.
In 2008, I was newly diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s. I was 36 years old; a former NBA player with access to any resource available for someone like me.
Problem was, I couldn’t find resources available to someone like me: young, athletic, father with kids at home, a caretaker, the breadwinner. There were (and still are) great organizations providing education and support and funding Parkinson’s research. But I didn’t see myself reflected back in these organizations’ websites, group meetings and brochures. I needed information to help me live fully with this diagnosis through the next half of my life and it just wasn’t out there.
So, I started an organization.
The Brian Grant Foundation (BGF) formed to fill in a missing piece for the community. I didn’t want BGF to be everything to everyone with Parkinson’s – I wanted it to be for everyone like me with Parkinson’s. People who wanted to use exercise and nutrition to control and slow their symptoms and get on with the business of living.
Starting off was tough. The country was deep in recession and we had little money and no staff. We were doing too much and our impact was spread thin. I thought we’d have to shut the doors. Thankfully, we got a couple of beat-the-buzzer donations from the community and BGF lived to see another day.
I also hit the road. I spoke to any audience that would listen about the importance of nutrition and exercise in managing Parkinson’s. I told my story. Though I’ve played basketball in front of tens of thousands of people, speaking to an audience was (and still is) hard for me. I spoke at galas, corporate affairs, conferences – you name it. Every talk I gave, people were enthusiastic about BGF and its mission and wanted to get involved. We were on our way.
Over the next couple of years, we worked on establishing the organization and its place in the Parkinson’s community. I hired an executive director with boundless energy and years of experience working with patient communities, including Parkinson’s.
Together, and with input from our community, we trained our focus on diet and exercise for people with Parkinson’s. We cut underperforming programs and created new ones based on demand. We brought in chefs, nutritionists, exercise physiologists, and researchers. We pulled in top Parkinson’s doctors and community leaders to help. We built Parkinson’s tools and resources that you can’t find anywhere else.
Our eighth year in business has been the best so far. In 2018, we launched “Exercise for Parkinson’s: Fundamentals for Professionals,” an online training program for exercise instructors to adapt their classes to include and benefit people with Parkinson’s. More than 600 instructors – some from as far away as Australia – have completed the online course.
We’ve expanded our online offerings to include more exercise videos, recipes and the latest science on diet, exercise and Parkinson’s. So far this year, nearly 20,000 people across the U.S. have used our resources to help them with their disease. Hundreds more have attended our events and live programs to support BGF and its mission to help people with Parkinson’s live well through nutrition and exercise. We are growing and carving out our place in the Parkinson’s community.
My story is still evolving. It’s changing course from me, Brian Grant the person, to us, Brian Grant Foundation. Thank you for being part of us.
If we’ve helped you in any way, please help us. Please consider making a donation to the Brian Grant Foundation this year – even if it’s $1, $5, $10 – to help us do more for the Parkinson’s community in 2019.
Ten years ago, I didn’t know much about Parkinson’s disease. But I knew that when you have the right information, you have control. When you have control, you have power. And when you have power, you can Power Forward with Parkinson’s.
Thank you again for being part of the Brian Grant Foundation.