A Program of the Medtronic Foundation

ALlison Smith-Conway
Bakken Winner Conway

Allison Smith-Conway

2013 Bakken Invitation Honoree

Laguna Niguel, California, United States
Foundation for Neurosciences, Stroke and Recovery

Medical Condition: Parkinson’s Disease
Medical Therapy: Deep Brain Stimulation*

Allison's "extra life"Inspires Me

Allison was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease when she was 32. Deep brain stimulation helps her manage the symptoms, but she found few resources available for people experiencing young onset Parkinson’s. She founded Parkinson’s in Balance through the Foundation for Neurosciences, Stroke and Recovery, which offers fitness classes and support groups in her community, and connects with thousands of others through her "Perky Parkie" blog.

Allison's Story

"When I was diagnosed with colon cancer at age 24 and then Parkinson's disease at age 32, I felt alone and terrified. Being so young, there were very few people that could understand what I was going through. After getting deep brain stimulation (DBS) surgery in 2010 to treat symptoms of Parkinson's, I looked for resources of support, but few were to be found.

"This made my life's journey clear. Before the staples were even out of my head following DBS surgery, I knew that I wanted to change the direction of my life to help others. I did not want anyone else to feel alone when faced with a medical challenge.

"I embraced the Parkinson's community, quit my former line of work, and sought out ways to get involved. I approached the Foundation for Neurosciences, Stroke and Recovery with an idea to create a program called 'Parkinson’s in Balance,' which encourages individuals to find a balance between their physical and mental health.

"For the last three years, I have been teaching fitness classes, facilitating support groups and creating community events. In my book 'I Am Not Contagious,' I share my life's adventure as a medical anomaly. And after starting my blog, the 'Perky Parkie,' I had people from all over the world contacting me for information, to share their work in the Parkinson’s community or to compliment my work. It made me realize the power of sharing your story. I helped educated others and offered encouragement, sometimes to people I had never met in person."

Allison's Words of Inspiration

"Don't underestimate the power of sharing your story. You don't need to have a lot of money or experience; you just need to give your time to help others. Get involved, ask how you can help; you just might help someone in need of support. Through my work, it is clear to me that we become stronger in numbers and that by sharing our lives, good or bad, we rise above the pain of our illness."

Share to
inspire others

$20,000 Grant Makes an Impact

Allison's Charity

"I started working with The Foundation for Neurosciences, Stroke and Recovery in 2010. Their mission is to enhance the lives of individuals and families in Orange County who have been affected by neurological ailments by providing education, support groups, fitness classes, psychotherapy, and community outreach programs."

Learn about other 2013 Honorees »

*Not everyone who receives this therapy will receive the same results as the patient in this story. Talk with your doctor to determine if this type of therapy is right for you. Please refer to Important Safety Information.