The PD community, I have learned, is full of extraordinary people. One is Valerie Herrero, a can-do personality who is a feverish stationary biker. She is spouse and caregiver for Gerard Herrero. I know both from the North Tampa support group and the Y cycling program for Parkies at Northdale. She radiates energy and conviviality, lighting up any space she occupies.
Valerie recently told me about their vacation trip to Marco Island. I was extremely impressed about their experience of life in the active Marco PD community. I asked Valerie to write about their experience. Here is the edited version of her fine account.
“This year, before our vacation to Marco Island, we decided to Google for Parkinson activities in the area. To my surprise, I found the Parkinson’s Association of Southwest Florida (PASFI). I was bowled over by their website. I found information about free programs and services, including social, educational and exercise.
“When we arrived, we found and experienced passionate, enthusiastic volunteers eager to make our vacation memorable.
“With open arms, they shared with us the PASFI mission, how their association got started and how they serve the Parkinson’s community with free programs and services. They invited us to attend their events and gave us information, including Parkinson’s exercise CDs to take home.
“We decided to check out the Rock Steady Boxing Program at the Marco Island YMCA. There we met Gustavo Sita, a certified Rock Steady trainer. Gustavo and other Parkies took us under their wings for two sessions.
“The prior winter, the YMCA Rock Steady Boxing program had more than 40 regulars. The YMCA is preparing to expand the program this fall.
“Another afternoon, we met Susan Branco, who conducts special therapeutic exercise programs for PASFI. Susan has developed unique strengthening programs. They combine music with easy movements using bands, balls and weights while seated or standing next to a chair.
“Again, like so many others we met in Marco, her devotion and passion for helping Parkies improve their quality of life through exercise was striking.”