It All Began with One Woman with One Wish…
In 1980, Marx Gerber, a well-known Savannah businessman, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. His wife, Dr. Alice Gerber, searched for help and services throughout the Savannah area, but found no place to receive help. Other community leaders joined forces with Alice and created the Savannah Parkinson Support Group.
In December 2015, Alice Gerber watched a television segment with Leslie Stahl. The segment showed Leslie’s husband participating in an exercise program for people diagnosed with Parkinson Disease.
Exercise has been shown to slow the progression of the disease so SPSG contacted Michael Cohen, Olympian, Olympic and Paralympic coach, professor and executive director of Team Savannah. Research found that existing programs involved large training fees and multiple travel related expenses for a number of days (airfare, hotel and food). Large affiliation and monthly maintenance fees that had to be absorbed by the sponsoring organization or community, which would in turn raise participant fees, was also common.
And GEM was Created…
Since there was a need for something effective and efficient, Michael created a program especially for SPSG. Get Excited & Move! combines contemporary research, a variety of sports and a variety of modalities to promote a more structured and cohesive exercise program.
GEM began in February 2015. Chatham County Parks and Recreation graciously allowed SPSG, with Coach Cohen at the helm, to pilot this program at Anderson-Cohen Weightlifting Center. Volunteers with knowledge of Parkinson’s Disease and therapeutic techniques stepped forward to assist. The program began with people with Parkinson Disease from throughout Chatham County. The founding class consisted of 23 participants (12 people with Parkinson Diseases and 11 caregivers).
Within two months, participation doubled to 44 total participants. By June 2016, participation doubled again to almost 90 participants. In July 2016, that number grew to 118 participants. Currently, more than 200 individuals are supported by nine weekly classes (morning and evening). GEM’s participants are caregivers, family members, and those with movement disorders, as well as older individuals who just enjoy the group setting.
The GEM program strengthens and encourages existing skills and abilities while building a sense of personal and community well-being as the program progresses. GEM instructors treat individual participants as athletes – not as patients in a therapeutic environment – and they LOVE it. Find a class or become an affiliate today.