‘Driven by the need’

Longtime South Jersey resident Stacey Macaluso has been working through her nonprofit to spread awareness on the benefits of exercise and activity for those with Parkinson’s disease.

Mission PD is a fitness and wellness studio with its main location in Maple Shade and a new satellite location in Cherry Hill that also host virtual classes. Macaluso lives in Mount Laurel but has spent time in both Cherry Hill and Moorestown. A dental hygienist for 35 years and a part-time fitness instructor, Macaluso began teaching at the Dance for PD program.

“(About 15 years ago) I began doing some work as a fitness instructor and I was teaching a class for people with Parkinson’s disease called ‘Dance for PD’,” she recalled. “It was the first-ever program created for people who have Parkinson’s.”

Dance for PD is an internationally acclaimed program that offers research-backed dance classes through its network of partners and associates in more than 300 communities and 28 countries. Parkinson’s is the second-most common neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer’s.

“About 25 to 30 years ago, when people were diagnosed with Parkinson’s, it wasn’t recommended that they exercise or stay active,” Macaluso noted. “They didn’t know that exercise and activity is a way to reduce symptoms and progression of Parkinson’s disease.”

According to studies, a longitudinal decline in physical activity increases a person’s risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia.

“The population of people with Parkinson’s is multiplying faster every year,” Marcaluso explained. “Within the next seven years, the number (of people diagnosed), which is at 1.2 million, will double. That’s basically because of a lot of the environmental hazards and chemicals that we’re exposed to and how they affect us neurologically.”

After her experience in the PD program, Macaluso began partnering with nonprofits across the country, including the Davis Phinney and Parkinson’s foundations. Her goal was to spread awareness about Parkinson’s and encourage those with or without it to maintain a task-oriented lifestyle.

“While I was becoming more active with these organizations, I realized maybe it was time to spread my wings and open up my own nonprofit to continue the work alongside some of the national and community organizations,” she said.

Mission PD has in-person training, classes and life coaching, in addition to a virtual platform that is an educational resource for information, meetings, and fitness classes.

“It’s kind of like a Facebook,” Macaluso said of her website. “I’ll transfer all information from the major Parkinson’s organizations and support groups from across the country, then I’ll post it on there to make it easier to access.”

Macaluso’s nonprofit focuses on people in the South Jersey area, though she also has individuals working in South American countries. This year, Mission PD participated in an annual cycling fundraiser in Cherry Hill called A Parkinson’s Revolution, a one-day indoor cycling experience to generate awareness. Donations went to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

Late last month, the nonprofit held its Day at the Phillies Ball Park, which drew 142 people who had paid seats to the Phillies game. A portion of the proceeds went to Mission PD.

“It was a great day, even though it was raining,” Macaluso recalled. “Doing a fundraiser where people are able to go to a sporting event or do a fun activity is really important to us. When we do our fundraisers, our goal is to always make sure that people with Parkinson’s are able to participate.”

Introduced last year, the National Plan to End Parkinson’s Act involves the federal government in a mission to cure and prevent Parkinson’s and alleviate financial and health burdens on American families. The bill is the first legislation in Congress that focuses on curing and preventing Parkinson’s and providing care for its victims.

The legislation didn’t pass, but it was reintroduced and advanced unanimously out of the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.

“This is a really important topic that everyone should be aware of,” Macaluso said of the federal act. “If we could get this bill passed, we would most likely be able to reduce the amount of people that are diagnosed or slow the progression. So many other countries have already banned the chemicals that are causing Parkinson’s disease in America.”

A virtual National Day of Action – during which thousands of PD community activists will beseech Congress and state officials to support Parkinson’s policies – is Wednesday, Oct. 25.

Macaluso said meeting people with or without the disease who are dedicated to helping and assisting victims motive her to persist for the health of future generations.

“My passion is driven by the need and the people, and the need continues rising,” she pointed out. “We’re here to support, educate, and guide them so they can live their best, most robust lives.”

For more information on Mission PD, visit its website at www.mission-pd.org. Those interesting in adding their names to the federal National Plan petition, visit www.michaeljfox.quorum.us/campaign/NationalPlanPetition. 

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