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Helping others part of Christmas tradition

Wednesday December 22, 2010

Clare Howard

pjstar.com - The diagnosis of an incurable disease triggers all sorts of fears that are only exacerbated by the fear of passing a genetic link of that disease to children.

Some forms of Parkinson's disease have that possibility.

It could easily drive people to focus all their energy and resources on medical research so the next generation escapes that irreversible diagnosis.

But members of the Central Illinois Parkinson's Support Group continued a long-standing tradition of giving their annual Christmas party collection to a local charity, often the Salvation Army and this year the Journal Star Christmas Fund.

"The majority of people in our group have the financial ability to have a fairly good Christmas, even with Parkinson's and other medical problems," said Roger Halleen. "There are people living in central Illinois without any money for Christmas. We feel blessed, and we want to help."

The group gave $65 dollars to the Journal Star Christmas Fund.

Halleen's wife, Barb, was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years ago when she was 47. After a brief medical leave because of a bad reaction to her prescription drugs, she has been able to continue working.

"I hope we see a cure for Parkinson's in our lifetime. We have two children, a son, 26, and a daughter, 21," said Barb Halleen. "This gift to the newspaper Christmas fund is a free-will offering. We don't do a gift exchange at our Christmas party, and this donation to the Journal Star Christmas Fund is in the spirit of giving."

Marg Colley and her husband, Bruce, are members of the support group. Bruce was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when he was 59 in 2001.

Marg Colley, 68, said she remembers the Journal Star Christmas Fund when it was called the Red Stocking Fund years ago. Giving was always part of a family tradition in her home when she was growing up in Washington.

She and her husband contributed to the support group gift, and they also give to the Journal Star fund on their own.

"About this time during the year, I sit down with my stack of organizations and start writing checks," Colley said. "It's part of our tradition."

For many people, giving gifts of financial support to charitable organizations is as much a part of the holiday season as Christmas trees and caroling. The list of donors to the Journal Star Christmas Fund is printed in the newspaper and grows longer by the day.