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Celebrating YOU




Happy New Year!


Bridges For Parkinson’s is so thankful for the opportunity to have worked with you throughout 2023! “Fighting back” was our mantra and we look forward to continuing the “fight” in 2024.


This year was a special year in the life of our program. So, I thought I would pull back the curtain and share some of the significant successes we experienced this year and how our team of coaches and YOU, our fighters, are truly one of a kind!


Buckle up! It's been quite a ride!


I want to start by celebrating YOU, our precious fighters!

Let’s begin with a number: 1,176. Yes, we had 1,176 CLASSES! WOW!! We’re talking Rock Steady Boxing, Tai Chi, Music and Movement, Stretch and Simple Strength. Many of you take multiple classes each day (online and gym) - YOU ROCK!!

Let’s take a look at some of your success stories.

  • One fighter joined our program 7 years ago. At that time, she took the mini-best test to get a baseline of balance/agility, coordination and cardio-endurance. The maximum score is 30. When she took the original test, she scored 28! Then, this past December (7 years later) she retook the test and scored the EXACT same score! The physical therapist was stunned and our fighter was thrilled! She did not show any decline or increase in Parkinson’s symptoms. When the physical therapist asked her what she had been doing she said “Bridges For Parkinson’s”! Congratulations to our fighter! Well done and I am so thankful to be a part of your story.

  • One fighter went to see his neurologist in December and the doctor reported that the fighter’s PD is well controlled AND his progression is the slowest the doctor has ever seen. YAY!!!! Fantastic report and congratulations!!

  • One fighter completed the Music City Half Marathon! Impressive!

  • Two fighters wrote books! Congratulations! I’m super proud of them!

  • Dutch wrote a book of poems called “Running Deep with Parkinson’s”.

  • Dan Moore wrote “Control, Influence, Acceptance...For Now”Both books are available for purchase. For more information please contact me and I will connect you to the authors!

  • One of our fighters was able to do jumping jacks for the first time in years! I love this and guess what?? We’re going to keep doing them!

  • Many fighters report that overall flexibility and balance has improved.

  • Many fighters report that activities of daily living are easier to perform due to the exercises we do that “mirror” real life activities.

  • Several fighters have shared that our fall prevention exercises have saved them from falling! What great news!

  • Many of our musician fighters have been able to continue their performances and travels! As a musician, I know how much it means to be able to share the song in your heart with others.


We have many more testimonies like this and it thrills me to the core! Exercise is medicine and a dose you must take daily. I’m honored to be the one who gets to “give you your medicine”! Thank you! Are you “taking it” on a daily basis?


Another victory we saw this year was the completion of our research project with Vanderbilt Movement Disorder Physician, Dr. Daniel Claassen. Our project consisted of 33 subjects who had not been exercising and did not have a DBS (Deep Brain Stimulation) implant. After a series of tests with the research coordinator, they would then take twice weekly Rock Steady classes for 12 weeks. The subjects then returned to Vanderbilt and repeated the initial tests. The goal was to see how well our specific style of exercise at Bridges For Parkinson’s helps the glymphatic system (found in the brain) “flushes” the amyloid (think of it as tossing the trash out) while they sleep. While I am still waiting for the final report, the initial test results showed significant improvement in the function of the glymphatic system!!! YES!


I can NOT stress enough how important exercise is to fighting back! The specific style of exercise we do at Bridges For Parkinson’s matters! Each of our routines is focused on addressing the areas of the brain that are responsible for a specific movement but due to Parkinson’s, are not performing as well. Additionally our exercises address flexibility, balance, projection, strength, agility, cardio and so much more. Many physical/occupational therapists have come to observe a class and always report how excited they are to see how much we accomplish! They also thank us for doing exercises that address the symptoms while also individualizing a fighter’s routine as needed.


At Bridges For Parkinson’s we take a holistic approach to our program, to our fighters, focusing on the body, mind, and spirit. As one fighter says “every day I exercise, I know it is one more day that I am able to take care of myself and not rely on assistance.” This is a commitment I take seriously and one you can count on!


So, I challenge you that in 2024, you will continue to make exercise a daily activity and at the end of 2024, report back to me! I want to hear about the goals you’ve met and future goals! YOU CAN DO IT!!!


Thanks to fighter Rich Gootee’s encouragement, we established the 501C3 “Call On The Fighter” Foundation in early 2023. Thanks to you, Petersons For Parkinson’s, numerous local businesses and friends of fighters, we raised $65,000 for scholarships- that’s over 70 fighters assisted throughout the year!

This is a WOW moment!


As we end 2023 and prepare for an exciting 2024, if you are considering making a donation to a foundation, we hope you will consider our 501C3 “Call On The Fighter” Foundation. Thank you so much for helping us keep our promise to NEVER turn anyone away from Bridges For Parkinson’s.

In January, “fighter” Rich Gootee, co-writer, Greg Anderson, choral arranger, Shayla Blake and I began working on our 3rd song, “You Are Not Alone” for the “Call On The Fighter” Foundation. Wow! This project has taken on a life of its own. From coast to coast, individuals, choirs and 3 music celebrities have joined us to spread the word that no one is ever alone. What a beautiful message of hope! Just a heads up...we are still not finished with the music video portion of the project. In late January/early February, we will complete the “story line” of the video.

This means we will need about 10-12 “fighters” and 2-3 children to help us. Stay tuned for more information on signing up to be in the video. Our goal is to debut the music video at the 2nd Annual “Fighter Fest” in March!

We hosted our first annual “Fighter Fest'' at 3rd and Lindsley this past March. It was a huge success (raised $20,000) and Coach Laura, as always, did an outstanding job organizing and directing the program. Laura also organized our first pickleball tournament, raising $5,000, AND she is already working on our 2nd annual “Fighter Fest” to be held at 3rd and Lindsley, Thursday, March 28th. More to come about this fun event!


Now...let’s celebrate our fabulous coaches!


I’m so proud of Coach Laura! I’m confident she isn’t afraid of taking on anything with gusto! Learning how to fund-raise and coach 12 classes for us each week, working 1:1 with fighters as needed, working independently AND keeping Colleen in line is no small task! We love you, Laura! I’m so proud of you and honored that you are a big part of our “family!”

Fun news...this coming May 2024, Laura will be participating in the musical “Cabaret”! She is an extremely talented singer and dancer. You can bet I’ll be buying a ticket to see our girl perform! Congratulations, Laura!


Spreading her wings, Coach Michelle (personal trainer) started a care-partner support group in January. With experience in caregiving for a loved one living with Parkinson’s, she understands first hand the challenges care-partners face. And, for the second year in a row, she volunteered her time at the Peterson’s For Parkinson’ monthly care-partner support group. While care-partners meet, Michelle leads those living with Parkinson’s in a modified version of Rock Steady Boxing. And, in her free time, she assists me with administrative work, powerpoint presentations for my educational platform and provides direction and support!

Thank you, Michelle! Fun fact: Michelle’s family met their goal of traveling to all 50 state capitals this year! Congratulations!


In 2023, we welcomed Dr. Caitlin Bender, OT, in the spring of 2023 as a Belmont Occupational Therapy Capstone student and THEN as COACH! Caitlin is a wonderful addition to the program and is available for all your occupational needs. Early January she will earn her PWR4LIFE certification. PWR4LIFE is similar to LSVT-BIG and created by the person who created LSVT-BIG. Additionally, Caitlin plans on offering a new class each quarter specifically for care-partners. She will teach care-partners how to safely handle, modify etc a situation or ADL at home, in the car, traveling, at social engagements etc. I know you will love learning safe and effective secrets of the trade from Caitlin.

Belmont University has been a great institution to work with.Their Physical and Occupational programs are committed to ensuring their students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to be successful in the field.


For six weeks this past fall, we welcomed 18-20 occupational therapy students each Friday to observe and gain hands-on experience working with our fighters. The response is usually...”WOW! We had no idea the workout was so hard! They can do so much!” Mentoring these future clinicians to “think outside the box” is vital if they are to help a “fighter” make significant changes in their Parkinson’s journey.


The hands-on experience will continue with our 2024 Capstone Belmont Occupational Therapy interns, Caylin and Kelly. We excitedly anticipate their first day with us on January 8th! I know you will make them feel right at home during their 12 week stay with us. AND, Coach Caitlin has developed a curriculum (including quizzes!!) to enhance their learning, outside of class time.


In the spring of 2023, Belmont University extended an invitation to me (Colleen) to join their Occupational Therapy Advisory Board for the next two years. I am so honored to have this opportunity to increase awareness of the benefits of exercise for those living with Parkinson’s and develop new relationships with our middle TN Parkinson’s community.


Speaking of education...our educational articles this year focused on topics ranging from“Why We Box”, “Bone Health”, “Bowel and Bladder Therapy” and more. With the collaboration of members of the team Betsy, Cindy, Caitlin, Megan, Dr. Johnson and Renee we provided solid information that you can use and share with others living with Parkinson’s.


But our education does not stop with the articles. Coach Cindy and Coach Theresa provide incredible information and guidance to so many fighters each and every week.

Cindy’s background as a Physical Therapy Assistant with a speciality in spines makes her exceptionally helpful to our fighters. Sometimes, spine issues develop as a side symptom due to Parkinson’s or maybe the person had the issue prior to their diagnosis of Parkinson’s. Either way, when your back, hips, shoulders etc hurt...it is a blessing to have her input and experience.

By the way, did you know that Coach Cindy has an adopted son (Lennox) who was born in Haiti and now runs a boys home in Haiti called “Hope Story Missions”. Last year we raised money to help them buy a generator so they could have AC and electricity! To learn more about his program go to www.hopestorymissions.org


And then there is Coach Theresa! I wish I could clone her! WIth a background in massage therapy, yoga and more, she has the gift of assessing your body alignment, muscle tightness and even mental stress and from there, works wonders on you! It brings me so much joy to see fighters walking out her therapy room with a smile on their face. Many of you text or email me often to tell me that the relief she brings to your body helps you complete your daily tasks with ease! And..Theresa did something totally awesome during our Christmas break! She and her daughter kayaked and camped in the Florida Everglades!


Dynamic Duo (twin sisters, Doris/Diane) never cease to amaze me! Tirelessly giving of their time and energy to ensure the overall program and classes run without missing a beat.

Diane is a very busy lady traveling the USA with her husband, Mike, to speak at AA meetings but she never hesitates to coach a Bridges For Parkinson’s class. Thank you, Diane! I sure do love you!

Doris is my “north star”. When she entered my life 16 years ago as a private client, I had no idea how God would use her to help me grow as a wife, mom and ultimately a business woman. She listens to me, gives me advice that is honest and true and when I feel defeated she doesn't hesitate to say “Colleen, pick yourself up and keep going! You can do this!” I can’t imagine life without Doris.

She has been there for/with me through the loss of my dad, mom and brother, breast cancer, keeping our program running through the Covid-pandemic and so much more. Thank you, Doris, for being my “Nashville Mom''. I love you dearly! Side note: Doris volunteers her time at Bridges For Parkinson’s!


Seb- well, let’s just say that Seb is one of a kind. Devoted to our program, always ready to help fighters, coaches and me, I would be lost without him. With a 35+ year background in boxing, he has elevated our boxing technique to a new level. And, “suffering for good” has actually become fun...sometimes! Ha! BUT...it is his heart of gold and servant attitude that touches all of us. You may not know this but Seb cleans the gym each Saturday, free of charge. Thank you!


My Greensboro, North Carolina side-kick and dear friend, Betsy, also plays a huge role in the success of our program. Betsy joined our program during the pandemic and what we thought would be a short time working together is still going 4 years later. Betsy assists me online and works 1:1 with fighters. She loves each and every fighter as if they were of her own blood. She checks on them, sends cards, calls them regularly just to visit and the bond she has with them is priceless. And in North Carolina, Betsy leads multiple Parkinson’s fitness programs - (online, in person, 1:1 clients)

Betsy is also a prolific writer/editor. Every article, every educational series I create, you name it...if I write it, Betsy makes it presentable! That includes this letter! Betsy, thank you for always being there for me and working so hard for our fighters! I owe you an unsweet tea!


It is hard to believe that April of 2024 will be our 8th anniversary! I had no idea that I would meet so many wonderful people. Each one has left an imprint on my life and helped me achieve my dream of bringing common sense, research based, yet effective exercise, to the Parkinson’s community of Middle Tennessee and beyond. One such person is online coach, Kyle Bivins.

Kyle has been with me the longest - 7 years! I can remember when Kyle started. He was new to the field of personal training and Parkinson’s. But he dove in and wasn’t afraid to learn and improve his skills. I saw a natural ability in Kyle to teach and connect with people so I asked him to teach a small class once a week at our Nashville gym about 6 years ago.

His response..”I can’t teach!.” I ignored him and gave him some tips and set him off to teach a group of about 3-4 people. And guess what? He liked it! Then...covid hit. We immediately pivoted to offer virtual classes. We knew that while the pandemic would eventually release its hold on us, Parkinson’s still needed to be addressed daily. Kyle joined me as an assistant coach online but it wasn’t long before he said “I’d be happy to lead classes for you...” and to this day, he diligently teaches online. I’m so proud of you, Kyle!


As we grew, it became more and more difficult for me to keep up with announcements and vital information you all needed to know. Well, Kari Gregg was coaching for me at the time and offered to create a weekly newsletter. I said “PLEASE and THANK YOU!”. Each week you receive a beautifully organized newsletter that is crafted with love by Kari. Thank you, Kari! You receive compliments often on how well done the newsletter is and that people look forward to opening it. She also assists new fighters with creating a login on the www.bridgesforparkinsons.com website. I have zero skills when it comes to technology (my team would totally agree!) But Kari is so kind and patient and helps each fighter with their account until the job is done.


One of the needs we have in our program is for a strong coach:fighter ratio. The primary goal is to keep our classes safe yet effective. The more coaches present in class the more I am able to do with you AND should someone need individual attention, we have enough coaches to provide 1:1 training. However, my budget is conservative so when someone like Stan Jones calls and asks if he can volunteer, I say yes!

Stan has been volunteering at our Nashville location for 3 years! He has a background in martial arts and when you add his genuine love for our fighters and care-partners, he is a perfect fit!! He is faithful to serve and we are grateful for him!


Early on it became clear that we needed to add an evening class to the schedule. I knew that I would not be able to lead the class because I was already teaching 9-11 classes per week, running the program, personal training, caring for my mom and raising a family. I decided I would leave it in God’s hands and when the time was right, I knew I could trust him to provide a coach with experience to lead. Well, He did just that!

Coach Shannon approached me at the 2016 Vanderbilt Parkinson’s Symposium and shared her Parkinson’s connection with me and mentioned she had group exercise experience! Voila!! 2017, we started evening classes in Franklin and she is STILL coaching the classes with assistance from Seb and Alexia (Belmont student). What you may not know is that Shannon is a full time special education teacher in Columbia with 30+ years experience. She faithfully drives to Franklin each Thursday (in the crazy traffic) to lead classes. She loves our fighters and with a personal connection to Parkinson’s, she is able to listen and provide support in a unique manner. And, did I mention that our student coach, Jayci (worked summer of 2023 and holiday breaks) is her beautiful daughter?

It was a joy to have Jayci join us this past summer and although she is pursuing dentistry, I have a feeling she will always find a way to help the Parkinson’s community! Hey, if she decides to live here, she can clean all our teeth!


One of the highlights of 2023, has been watching our younger coaches grow! Coach Ethan made a huge impact on our program and incorporated new ideas to help me run classes and perform administrative tasks easier. He is now in med school and sends his hellos!


Lyra and Ansley have definitely worked their way into our hearts. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow in confidence and direction for their lives. A lot of that comes from you, the fighters. You encourage them, support them and provide a loving environment for them to learn and grow. Thank you! Ansley has decided to pursue her degree in psychology with a minor in nutrition, health science and health and human performance athletic training. Wow!!

Lyra is completing her college degree at UT Knoxville. Speaking of Lyra, isn’t the online store awesome? Well, all the credit goes to Lyra! Great job, Lyra! And...she is taking sewing lessons from fighter Angie! How precious is that!? Thank you, Angie!


Catherine and Kate, our Lipscomb University student coaches also contribute so much to our program.

Catherine assists at both locations, creates exercise videos for our coaches, and leads our Saturday 9:15am “Power Punch” class. She is a natural born coach and I’m super proud of her!

Kate has a heart of gold with a goal of helping as many people as possible when she too earns her medical degree. Never one to shy away from a tough job, she works two jobs while going to school full time. AND...she never hesitates to help! She often gives rides to fighters who are struggling to find a ride to class. Our students are amazing!


Earlier I mentioned Belmont OT students coming to observe and assist this past fall. Well, when one of our evening coaches moved leaving a need for another coach, Alexia- Belmont student and our 2025 Capstone intern, offered to step in! She has a generous heart and loves working with our awesome evening fighters. She too has a personal connection to Parkinson’s which makes her time even sweeter with you all!


What a blessing each and every coach is to our program and me. If you have ever owned your own business or been in management, then you know that managing people is the toughest part of running a business. NOT FOR ME! My team is reliable, trustworthy, compassionate, supportive, encouraging, experienced, flexible and truly a joy to work with. And, because they are so amazing, I can focus on the most important part of the program...YOU! My fighters.


Last but definitely not least, I’d like to thank my beautiful family! Truly, truly my family is the best! My husband, Shane, and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary in November. Shane is the most understanding and supportive husband ever! He is patient with me when I work late at night, on weekends and events/projects etc. He celebrates all our victories and whispers

encouragement when I’m faced with a challenge. I am so blessed to do life with him and thank God for him every day! I love you, Shane Bridges!


My boys, Jackson (15), and Jacob (11) are the delight of my heart! As you know, Jackson had a great first year in the Franklin marching band! I watched him grow and mature so quickly this fall semester thanks to the demands of the band but we wouldn’t trade the experience for the world! We’re ready for next year! He made an alternate position for the TN Mid-state Band (french horn) and we are so excited for him! I’m so very proud of my sweet Jackson! I love you, bud!

Jacob loves coming to the gym and helping! He has already told me he wants to “work for mommy” one day! So you never know! But in the meantime, he is learning how to play the drums (got a snare drum for Christmas...pray for me!), sings in the school and church choir, loves wrestling with Jackson and Shane (and yes, me too) and playing football in the backyard! I love you, Jake!!


I love the old hymn “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your blessings and see what God has done.” When I read over this letter, it’s mind blowing how many blessings I have received this year. And, this is just a small portion of what I/we have seen and experienced at Bridges For Parkinson’s this year. I’m so humbled...thank you, God!


Writing this newsletter has been emotional. One minute I’m beaming with smiles and dreaming of the future and the next I’m tearing up because you all have accomplished so much and my coaches are one of a kind. Fourteen years ago when I began dreaming of what a Parkinson’s fitness program might look like, I planned on offering 2-3 classes a week and leading classes all by myself. I am so glad that what God had planned for me was better than anything I could have ever dreamt myself.


So, as we approach 2024, I look forward to doing life with you! We will fight back and have some laughs and hugs too and even shed some tears! I can’t just torture you all the time! Ha! But..when you feel alone, take a moment to breathe and remember that you have a family that loves you, supports you and is here to help. Not just at the gym but in everyday life!Yes, you have Parkinson’s BUT Parkinson’s does not have you!


Celebrating YOU always,

Colleen



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