Our First Sidekicks™ Program in Chicago was a Huge Success

Sidekicks participants in Chicago gather for a picture

This spring, we launched a new program in partnership with Lundbeck called Sidekicks™: Uniting Youth and People with Parkinson’s. The goal of Sidekicks is to foster positive, meaningful connections between participants in a creative and fun manner.   

This month marked the completion of the first Sidekicks program in Barrington, IL, a suburb of Chicago. While participants experienced some initial nerves during their first moments together, they quickly subsided, and the conversation and art began to flow.   

Davis Phinney Foundation - Sidekicks
Photo by Chris Ocken – Copyright 2018 – OckenPhotography.com

During each of the first three workshops, the people with Parkinson’s began by teaching the youth about living well with Parkinson’s and the importance of a positive mindset. They talked about: 

  • Movement challenges such as tremor and freezing of gait 
  • Strategies for overcoming challenges 
  • Gratitude and hope for the future 
  • Facial masking 
  • The problem with judging a book by its cover 
  • The importance of listening to understand others 
  • The importance of friendships and social connection with all different types of people 

After the educational piece, the youth and people with Parkinson’s separated into small groups to complete a creative project together. This was when the relationships really began to form. They created: 

Storyscapes, hand tracings that signified the tremors that many people with Parkinson’s experience. Groups collaborated to fill the left hand with things they’re grateful for and the right hand with things they’re looking forward to. 

Davis Phinney Foundation - Sidekicks
Photo by Chris Ocken – Copyright 2018 – OckenPhotography.com

Ideascapes, representations of what their ideal world looks like. All of the participants jumped on the opportunity to get to know each other better and develop a picture that reflected the wishes of all participants in the group. Together, they illustrated their ideal world.  

Davis Phinney Foundation - Sidekicks
Photo by Chris Ocken – Copyright 2018 OckenPhotography.com

Friendship Rocks, words and images that represent friendship. In their small groups, they talked about what healthy friendships involve. Then they clipped words and sayings from magazines that reflected healthy friendships and adhered them to rocks as a token to keep or share with their new friends. 

Sidekicks art Davis Phinney Foundation

During the fourth and final meeting, participants assembled for the Storysharing Showcase Event and Celebration where they joined with family, friends and members of the Davis Phinney Foundation and Lundbeck teams to highlight the relationships built through Sidekicks and reflect on special moments shared.   

Each participant received a certificate thanking them for participating in Sidekicks with the Starfish Story on the back to remind them that they made an impact. For the second half of their time together at the celebration, everyone wandered the room to admire the artwork of all groups and talked about their experiences.  

Starfish Story - Sidekicks - Davis Phinney Foundation

The relationships that were created during these four weeks together warmed all of our hearts and through talking to the youth and those with Parkinson’s who participated, we know it was an experience they won’t soon forget. We can’t wait to begin again.

It was incredible to have the opportunity to see the relationships that were built in such a short amount of time. Seeing the joy that the youth and people with Parkinson’s were able to share with each other warmed my heart, and it was clear they were happy to have spent the time together.  

Joan E., who lives with Parkinson’s, helped lead the group education during the first three workshops. She said, “You feel like you disappear into Parkinson’s, but it doesn’t define you.” Joan continued to say that through Sidekicks, she “opened up to [the youth] and it boosted [her] confidence.” 

Witnessing these moments was a true victory, and I look forward to sharing more of these moments as we continue to share Sidekicks with Parkinson’s communities all over the country!

Gabby Dimotsantos, Davis Phinney Foundation Community Outreach MNGR

Learn more about Sidekicks!

We hope you’ll join us in learning more, and we look forward to sharing new moments together… one story at a time.