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News staff writer

People newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease are usually just plain afraid, says Carol B. Meenen, an advocate and mentor with the Parkinson’s Action Network in Alabama.

“They’re just scared,” she said. “They don’t know what to expect.”

But information, support and a positive attitude can help people manage their fears, their disease and their lives, Meenen said.

And this Saturday offers an opportunity for patients and their families to learn about the latest research and therapy for Parkinson’s disease, a neurological condition that affects 1.5 million Americans.

The Davis Phinney Foundation and Parkinson’s Association of Alabama are sponsoring a day-long meeting at the Birmingham Marriott, 3590 Grandview Parkway. The event is free and open to the public. It includes food, beverages and presentations by top experts in Parkinson’s disease.

One of a series of “Victory Summits” being conducted nationwide, the meeting will focus on ways to improve the lives of Parkinson’s patients and their families, organizers said.

In addition, Meenen, 65, of Gurley will be presented with a Local Hero Award for her activism. She was diagnosed with Parkinson’s more than 15 years ago, and has made her mark by helping others cope with the illness. “I just do the best I can,” Meenen said.

Included in presentations will be information on exercise, speech and music therapy as well as new scientific findings about Parkinson’s disease, a condition that affects 1.5 million Americans.

The event starts with check-in and breakfast in the Marriott Foyer and Ballroom from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. Presentations are scheduled throughout the day until 3:15 p.m.

Speakers include: Drs. Ray Watts and David Standaert, top researchers and physicians from the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Guy A. Caldwell and Kim A. Caldwell, researchers from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa; Jamie Wade of UAB, a speech therapist; Matt Ford of UAB, a physical therapist; and Dr. Harrison Walker of UAB, an authority on deep brain stimulation.

Davis Phinney, a retired professional cyclist, in 2004 created the foundation that bears his name. The foundation promotes quality-of-life issues associated with Parkinson’s disease.

E-mail: dparks@bhamnews.com

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