George’s mother, Sharon Riff Ackerman, sadly passed away in January, after living with Parkinson’s for at least 15 years. Five years ago, after her daily life started to be affected, George dedicated himself to making sure that she received the best care.
Now, he is determined to keep her memory alive, and he hopes to raise awareness of Parkinson’s across the world.
We are so grateful to him for sharing his incredible story with us; as he says, if one person tells another person and that person tells one more person, then the whole world will know. “It’s funny how the world is so large, but I have been able to connect with so many people through this, and I am so grateful to them all”.
Together for Sharon
For Sharon’s funeral, George and his family paid for 50 wristbands to be created for those attending, with the words, “In memory of Sharon Riff Ackerman,” “Parkinson’s Disease Awareness”, “Together for Sharon”. The gesture was intended for close loved ones at the funeral, but after one friend shared a photo of his band on social media, then another, and another, George was moved to honour his mother and spread awareness of Parkinson’s more widely. Today, he has sent out around 3,000 wristbands to those who want them.
TogetherForSharon™ has gained momentum, but George explains that it is not an official non-profit organisation, it is “just the son of a mother who loved her and doesn’t want to let her go”. Emotionally, he tells us that the experience is helping him to cope with the loss of his mother, who was his best friend.
Selfless Acts to Help People with Parkinson’s
George does not charge anyone for the wristbands and directs people to other organisations helping those with Parkinson’s, if they would like to donate money. Impressively, he has helped to raise $6,000 dollars for the main organisations in America, in just a few months. He tells us that he has now spent more money raising awareness of Parkinson’s than he will ever get out of it and has had people saying, “I don’t believe you; everyone wants something in return”. George’s response is simply “I just want to be able to help people and be able to remember that I made an impact”.
As well as the financial contribution that George has made to his cause, he also documented the last seven months of his mother’s life in videos and photos, which he hopes can one day be used for research. We are astonished by his generosity and determination to help others. “If my mother was here she’d tell me not to put too much into everything, but she knows that no matter what, I would put my heart and soul into it. People need to know that there are people out there who care and have no motivation for anything except to hopefully one day have a cure”.
A Wealth of Resources
The website George and his family have created, Together for Sharon, has attracted almost 5,000 people to connect with George. He uploads weekly videos on topics such as his mother’s progression and mobility, her life before Parkinson’s, the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, and coping with COVID-19 and Parkinson’s. The website contains such a wealth of resources related to Parkinson’s, including links to podcasts, articles and other videos, information about exercise and music therapy, and other services one can donate to. These are all resources and information that George wishes he had known about sooner.
The Ultimate Goal is to Find a Cure
By raising awareness, George hopes that more people can come together and help to support individuals who are researching ways to help people with Parkinson’s. For Sharon, the most problematic symptoms were not related to motor function. George says, “The most fascinating thing about Parkinson’s is that it’s so different for every person”.
While George wants to teach people about Parkinson’s, he notes that he still learns a lot from everyone else. By sharing stories of individual’s experiences with Parkinson’s, George, hopes to let more people know that they are not alone.
From America, George is also working with Parkinson’s UK. He wishes that more people would work together around the world. “It’s a cause that everyone can come together and agree with. It seems there are always two sides to everything in the world, but with Parkinson’s there’s just one side; we all want a cure”.
Thank you to George for sharing your powerful story with us. We are humbled by togetherforsharon™’s mission to raise awareness of Parkinson’s, find a cure, and remember Sharon Riff Ackerman’s name.
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