We are excited to introduce our first Healthy Parkinson's Communities (HPC) leader highlight. In this post, we feature Carolyn Utesch: one of the many exceptional people in the Davis Phinney Foundation’s community of dedicated, impactful leaders who support people with Parkinson’s in their local communities and around the world.
Carolyn’s leadership in the Bloomington, Indiana CAC is integral to improving access to local information and resources that help people living with Parkinson’s in Bloomington and the surrounding area take control of their well-being and live their lives to the fullest. In addition to her Ambassador role, she founded a community-based Parkinson’s wellness center and completed many trainings and certifications relevant to helping people with Parkinson’s.
Carolyn is passionate about living well today. When asked what this specifically means to her, Carolyn shared:
“Living well: To me, that means choosing to do the best I can every day, in every way.”
The beauty of the natural environment is important to Carolyn, and she takes every opportunity to be in nature. She enjoys gardening, camping, hiking, biking, and taking the time to admire the clouds and smell the flowers. Carolyn says, “I enjoy people and spend time with friends and family eating, laughing, sharing, and enjoying life.”
Carolyn’s joy for life has made her a model of living well, connecting the community, and inspiring action.
CAROLYN’S LEADERSHIP JOURNEY
While working at a senior living center in 2010, Carolyn was introduced to Parkinson’s when she met a resident named June. June was living with advanced Parkinson’s, but also infectious joy and a gracious heart. Inspired by June, Carolyn pursued certification as an occupational therapy assistant. Since 2014, Carolyn has worked as a certified occupational therapy assistant (COTA).
In 2021, Carolyn became a Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassador with the goal of promoting resources for Parkinson’s and connecting people living with Parkinson’s with direct support. Though she was working with people with Parkinson’s for years, as Carolyn began her Ambassadorship, she saw the need for a larger, more systemic approach to the challenges those living with Parkinson’s face in her community when trying to achieve a higher quality of life.
In turn, this led to the founding of the Bloomington, Indiana Community Action Committee (CAC), which Carolyn established just five months after starting the Ambassador Leadership Program. Since October 2021, Carolyn has been leading the charge to develop a community-based Parkinson’s wellness center and educate medical professionals.
In 2023, the Davis Phinney Foundation helped the Bloomington CAC host a Healthy Parkinson’s Communities (HPC) Summit: “Planting Seeds: Living Well with Parkinson’s.” This two-day event was an educational health fair, including a collaborative working day with local organizations.
Following the HPC summit, there has been momentum toward building relationships, leveraging resources, and communicating as a community in Bloomington.
CAROLYN’S VISION FOR THE COMMUNITY
Carolyn’s goals for her community include:
- Increasing awareness of Parkinson’s
- Increasing support, resources, and education for people living with Parkinson’s
- Increasing utilization of complementary therapies
- Raising money to establish a dedicated space for Parkinson’s programs and classes
- Addressing local issues and obstacles to better serve people with Parkinson’s
With Carolyn leading the charge, progress is well underway on these goals. She offers the following words of wisdom for those interested in supporting their local Parkinson’s community: “Start small. Plan for what YOU need/want, and not what others are telling you that they did.”
HOW TO REACH CAROLYN
You can reach Carolyn through her Ambassador page.
You can learn much more about living well with Parkinson’s today through our Every Victory Counts® suite of resources. Each manual is packed with up-to-date information about everything Parkinson’s. Click the link below to reserve your manual(s).
Thank you to our 2024 Gold Partner, AbbVie, and our Silver Partner, Mitsubishi Tanabe Pharma America, for their ongoing support of these must-have manuals. Additionally, we’d like to thank Barbara and Dale Ankenman, Abby and Ken Dawkins, Bonnie Gibbons, Irwin Narter, Lorraine and J Wilson, and Gail Gitin in loving memory of Gene Gitin for their generous donations that allow us to make these resources available and accessible to all.