How I Got Involved
Diagnosed at 36
My name is Annie and I am a mother of two. I have been been married to Joe for 20 years. Before I got married, I was very interested in a TV/Modeling career. I attended John Casablanca Modeling School and did some modeling in the late 80’s. I was a contestant in the 1987/1988 Miss NJ Pageant and the 2007 Mrs. NJ Pageant.
After my first child was born in 1995, I started to experience some of the early symptoms associated with young onset Parkinson’s disease. However, when I was pregnant with my second child, the symptoms disappeared. After the birth of my second child, the symptoms returned and I became very concerned. After four years of visiting general neurologists and movement disorder specialists, I was finally diagnosed with young onset Parkinson's disease by a doctor from UPenn in 2004 at the age of 36.
Currently, I view this disease as a personal challenge. I do not sit back and wonder why I received this diagnosis. Over the past four years, I have been involved in many aspects of the Parkinson’s community. In 2005, I started USA PD Pals, an online support & information group, with my friend Judy who also suffers with Parkinson's disease. USA PD-PALS made their debut at the 12th Annual Parkinson’s Unity Walk in 2006, raising over $17,000. After this top ten finish, I decided I could do even more the following year. I hosted the 1st Annual Have A Heart for Parkinson's Valentine Dinner Dance in February 2007 and raised over $7,400, the first portion of the $14,000 I ultimately raised for that year's Unity Walk. My team raised the same amount, catapulting us to a total of $28,000, and a top ten finish for the second year in a row.
From 2007-2009 I served as the 2nd Vice President on the board of New Jersey Chapter of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, volunteered with the Parkinson’s Alliance and acted as team captain for USA PD-PALS. In addition to these activities, I self published my first children’s book A Tale of a Parkie Princess, which became available on www.barnesandnoble.com and other online book stores in March 2008.
I was honored to receive the 2005 Women Who Make Magic Award and the 2007 NJ APDA Excellence in Service Award. When I competed in the 2007 Mrs. NJ USA pageant, I received the People’s Choice Award and was 1st runner up for the Community Service Award.
In the summer of 2008, my family and I were selected to participate in a Parkinson's awareness campaign. The campaign, Living with Parkinson’s Disease, featured our family in a DVD and brochures which were distributed in doctors' offices. My story was also selected to appear in the Proud Hands of Parkinson’s coffee table book, which was launched in the spring 2008.
I've taken a little time for myself lately but am optimistic about the future. I am continuing to raise funds and awareness in hopes for a cure. I am excited about getting involved in APDA's brand new grassroots fundraising campaign which will launch before the end of this year. This new campaign will allow me and the groups I'm involved with to access all the tools we need to develop a successful event. It's also the first formal campaign that allows individuals and groups to focus on supporting APDA's young onset-specific programs and services as well as important PD research.
One day I plan to start my own non-profit organization, one that will help Parkinson's patients and their families. Until then, I will continue to help the community in new and different ways.