For Zoe Sullivan, her grandfather Ian was not just an important part of her life, his impact has echoed throughout their whole family and was the inspiration for her recent cupcake stall at Wellstead Primary School, east of Albany.
Pictured: Ian shared his love for seeds and the earth with his young grand daughter Zoe
Zoe’s mother Nerida said one day her daughter had a shoebox she brought out which she had decorated and she told the family she wanted to put on a cupcake stall in memory of her grandfather who had passed away after having lived with Parkinson’s.
“I was very proud of Zoe, and it was really special. It brought a tear to my eye when she came out with her shoebox all decorated for supporting Parkinson’s WA,” Nerida said.
“We had a good response from the school community and Zoe said people didn’t buy just one, they kept coming back and offering more money – it was beautiful.”
“The response was awesome! We have a little school with just 30 kids. We are located between Bremer Bay and Albany and are a tiny town, but we have an amazing community.”
“The whole community got behind the cupcake stall and donated extra than was asked and people were willing to put in more money to support the cause.”
Nerida said there was a small coffee shop across the road from Wellstead Primary School and they had asked Zoe to bring some cupcakes over to sell so they could support her too.
“The first person to buy one of the cupcakes had Parkinson’s which was amazing to see that impact directly in the community. It was a pretty extraordinary feeling knowing how we are creating that connection point and how they could be a part of it,” Nerida said.
Pictured: Zoe holds her cupcake stand at Wellstead Primary School.
Zoe said it felt really good to be able to help in some way and support the services that helped her grandfather.
“I wrote a letter to the school principal asking for permission that I could do the cupcake stall and they said yes. They were really interested and supportive of what I was trying to do,” she explained.
“A lot of kids hadn’t heard of Parkinson’s before and didn’t know anyone who had the condition.”
Nerida said one of the teachers made an opportunity in the classroom to talk about Parkinson’s, what it was and how it affected people.
“It became a learning experience for the kids at the school, and that’s not something we had expected,” she said.
Zoe and her cupcake stall raised an incredible $460 for Parkinson’s WA and the money raised will go directly back into supporting the Parkinson’s Nurse Specialist service in the Metro area and the South West, and strengthening Parkinson’s WA as the peak body and one-stop-shop resource hub to look to; a thought that made Nerida feel happy knowing.
Together with the Neurological Council of WA (NCWA), Parkinson’s WA works collaboratively to support all of the WA community and NCWA’s nursing service covers regional areas Parkinson’s WA does not and vice versa. Parkinson’s WA believe in the importance of families supporting the community members through their journey and understanding of the condition.
NCWA’s Neurological Nurse Tania said that living in the region you support also helps with understanding clients’ needs and utilising the many local contacts in their lovely community.
“It’s an honour and privilege to support people in the Great Southern on their Parkinson’s journey. The journey can be challenging at times and living in a regional area can add to that challenge, but we can always brainstorm ways to overcome issues no matter how big or small they may be,” she said.
“The people of Wellstead should be congratulated on such an amazing fundraising effort.”
Nerida said at the time, the Neurological Nurses and their nurses from the Home and Community Care program (HACC) Katanning had been an amazing support to their family over the years.
“Dad’s nurse knew about Parkinson’s and checked in with how was Dad was going, and asked what we needed. It was a great service that knew how to provide emotional support to our family and to have someone to walk with you on the Parkinson’s journey,” she said.
“For the nurses to say, ‘we know it’s hard, but you’re doing a great job and we will walk alongside you’, made all the difference while Dad was with us.”
“There needs to be more understanding to help keep people with Parkinson’s moving – but also to support the partners/carers so they are not as isolated.”
“People don’t understand Parkinson’s and just assume if you have the condition, you have the shakes – but Dad didn’t. Mum thinks he had it a good five years before diagnosis, but symptoms were missed due to other physical things happening in his body since he was a farmer and engaged in manual labour on the farm,” she explained.
Pictured: Ian stands on his farm with his sheep, he cared for.
“The more conversations we have about the condition, the better the quality of life can be for people and their family.”
Nerida said that in regional areas, there was a reduced access to support services, long waitlists and difficulty finding the right fit for your needs.
“Mum and Dad used to go down to the Parkinson’s Albany support group where the Neurological Nurses were, and it was great group of people. The social connection point was perfect because there were lots of farmers, and they all lived on and loved the land. Dad’s connection to the land was very special and he tried to instil that in the grandkids,” she said.
Nerida spoke about how Zoe, her brother and cousins would spend time on the farm and told of the joyful moments when he used to play boche with the grandkids.
Pictured: Ian enjoys time with his young grandchildren on his farm who wanted a walker like grandad.
“For the last couple of years, he lived about two hours away so we couldn’t see him as much. My mum cared for him at home throughout that period. However, two years before that we lived near them and went out regularly to visit and spend time with Dad. The kids loved to play boche and he would sit in the wheelchair outside, and the kids played and he would throw it. It was really special.”
“Definitely growing up on the farm, he was always a passionate farmer. He cared for his sheep so well – and he shared this with his grandkids.”
Along with Zoe, her cousin Hamish has also fundraised for Parkinson’s WA in honour of their grandfather Ian. Nerida explained how special Parkinson’s WA had become to their family.
“It has really meant a lot to Hamish to support the organisation as they have been a big part of our family.”
“We’ve gone through the journey with Dad and seen the support first-hand that the Parkinson’s community has given us. I hope these organisations can continue to offer that support and awareness to the community, family, partners/carers and friends. And if one day there is a cure for Parkinson’s - even better.”
Words by Jacqui O’Leary