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Monday, May 1, 2017

Tybee Kite Festival raises kites, funds for Parkinson’s patients

Posted April 30, 2017 By Will Peebles

Proceeds help organization establish its Get Excited and Move program

The mostly cloudless sky over Tybee Island on Sunday was crowded with colorful kites, dipping and diving in the wind.

The sixth annual Tybee Island Kite Festival was put on by the National Movement Alliance. It brings together kites, gumbo and live music, all to support patients with Parkinson’s and other movement restricting conditions.
NMA used to be known as Savannah Parkinson’s Support Group. Their mission remains the same, but their reach has expanded.
Every year, proceeds from the kite festival’s ticket sales go straight to funding their organization.

The group’s name change came last December after the group’s Get Excited and Move program, or GEM!, gained traction. GEM! is a exercise program designed for Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers, and now NMA is looking to take it national, hence the broad scope of the name.
“Our exercise program is now a model for other organizations around the country,” NMA executive director Sarah Bernzott said. “We’ve built this exercise program, and it’s affordable for people who are hosting it, and it’s affordable for people who are taking the class.”
GEM! started in February 2016 with 26 people. GEM! spokesman Edward DeVita said last February that the group was up to 268. The group aims to cover all movement disorders, though Parkinson’s is still at the top of their list.
“Every diagnosis is different. Some may have shuffling and tremors, some may have memory loss, loss of balance. That’s what can be really frustrating, because you look at the person next to you they might not have the same symptoms,” DeVita said. In the class and the GEM! Workouts, it addresses all of the muscle movement issues.”
While there is no cure for Parkinson’s, exercise can help. The GEM! program was designed by local Olympic coach Michael Cohen and includes no contact boxing, weightlifting, agility training, stretching and core strength development regimens.
Carl Looper was out on the beach with his own kite, a sharp two-stringed stunt model called Little Sister.
“I’ve been flying kites for about 20 years. We used to have a stunt kite contest here,” Looper said. “Today it’s for a good cause. I hope they find a cure for it soon. I have some relatives who are afflicted with it.”
Bernzott said the most important aspect of the kite festival is the opportunity to raise awareness for Parkinson’s and other movement restricting conditions and to let the public know about the services offered by NMA.
“It’s great just being able to get the word out to people, to let them know that we’re here, that we can help them and all they have to do is pick up the phone and call.”
DeVita said for him, it’s all about bringing people together.
“The thing about it is, there’s no real diagnosis, and there’s no real cure, so you’re kind of in Neverland. It can really play mind tricks on you. But it’s good to recognize that we’re in this together,” DeVita said. “Just because we have Parkinson’s doesn’t mean we’re not together. Some of us might move a little slower or forget something, but the main thing is that everybody stays together.”
For more information on NMA or the GEM! program, call 912-341-6953 ext. 102 or email

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