Healthy Parkinson’s Community™ Leader Highlight: Kristin Matteson

Kristin Matteson has her arms spread wide as she climbs a mountain, with a mountain range visible behind her. She is smiling with her white hair, pink shirt, and green and black backpack.

Written by the Davis Phinney Foundation’s Community Engagement Team 

The Davis Phinney Foundation Community Engagement team’s goal is to support the Parkinson’s community by providing educational resources and facilitating connections to our exceptional team of Healthy Parkinson’s Community™ (HPC) leaders and Ambassadors. 


KRISTIN MATTESON is a white lady with white, curly, short hair. She has large-framed glasses with blue frames. She is wearing a cerulean quarter zip that is unzipped.This month, we highlight Kristin Matteson and her commitment to strengthening her Newport, Rhode Island community and improving the lives of people living with Parkinson’s. Kristin is an occupational therapist, fitness trainer, and support group leader. She is committed to expanding awareness and helping those affected by Parkinson’s through support groups and building connections with people in local senior centers.   

Drawing from her passions, Kristin is a leader in our HPC initiative, serving as a Community Action Committee (CAC) leader in the Newport, Rhode Island area. The structure of the HPC network helps Kristin and the other members of the Newport CAC make the most of the resources their local and national Parkinson’s community offers. 

In addition to her work with our HPC initiative and the resources we provide, Kristin and the Newport committee have received a grant from the local American Parkinson Disease Association chapter for a boxing class and starting more local programs. Kristin has also connected with and drew inspiration from PDbuzz and attended PMD Alliance summits.  


Kristin came to Parkinson’s advocacy after befriending her landlords, one of whom lived with Parkinson’s. Kristin was impressed by how their commitment to exercise helped them manage their symptoms. She says, “I saw how exercise and being physically active kept him independent. As an occupational therapist, I knew the value of physical activity, but I saw the benefits in action in him.” 

Since the start of her friendship with her landlord, Kristin has become a spin instructor, a Certified Medical Exercise Specialist, a Parkinson’s Cycle coach, and a PWR!Moves instructor. She began her journey with the Davis Phinney Foundation and the HPC Initiative in 2022 and hit the ground running with her CAC in early 2023.  


Kristin’s goals for the community served by the Newport CAC include: 

  • Expanding Parkinson’s-specific exercise programs and support groups to multiple towns in Newport County 
  • Starting exercise groups for different groups of people living with Parkinson’s (YOPD, women, men, care partners, and more) 
  • Creating Parkinson’s-specific training for fitness trainers so people with Parkinson’s have variety and still feel safe in classes they attend 
  • Increasing awareness of Parkinson’s among local healthcare professionals and to the broader community
  • Continuing relationship-building with healthcare professionals to increase knowledge of local resources for people with Parkinson’s 


Kristin has celebrated several personal victories during her journey as a Parkinson’s advocate. 

One such victory is Kristin’s success in building collaborative relationships with other organizations and their leaders. She has done this by cultivating relationships throughout the community and by developing talking points to share what the Newport CAC is accomplishing. She has adopted the mantra, “Find the Parkinson’s community, and if you can’t find it, make it.” It can be hard to ask, but Kristin’s advice is not to be afraid to reach out to those who may want to help and ask for it. 

Kristin also learned that people with Parkinson’s are everywhere, but they may not broadcast that they are living with Parkinson’s. She has learned that being transparent and public about her advocacy work helps foster connections and inspire people to reach out to her and the Newport CAC. 


Social isolation has a substantial influence on quality of life for people with Parkinson’s. Work against this by reaching out to your nearest CAC or one of our 130+ Davis Phinney Foundation Ambassadors 

You can also reach out to the Community Engagement team any time by emailing 

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