Healthful Programs Go Virtual to Aid Parkinson’s Community: Local facilitators bring help and joy through online offerings

Buffalo, NY, 3 April 2020 – Every segment of our community is being affected by the Coronavirus. The ways in which our lives have changed are as varied as we are, but one factor we all have in common is the practice of social distancing. For some, this is the inconvenience of having to work from home. For others, being removed from essential services can be devastating. Movement and exercise are critical in battling Parkinson’s disease (PD). Motion slows the progress of this incurable, neurodegenerative movement disorder. With the closure of gyms, the postponement of programs and the inability to meet with therapists, people with Parkinson’s face the fear of having the disease gain control. Some local practitioners, however, are coming to the rescue.

Cindy Menard, Cynthia Pegado, Mara Niemanis and Larry Pignataro have all moved their critical, Parkinson’s-related programs to virtual classes, allowing people to get the essential exercise needed while being home bound. Menard is a Rock Steady Boxing certified trainer. Pegado has applied her Dance for Parkinson’s training in the region for years. Niemanis presents Feldenkrais as a wellness option, and Pignataro has devised yoga classes for those with movement challenges.

Boxing training has gained popularity as an effective means of battling PD symptoms. Menard was the first to contact the Parkinson’s Foundation, New York and New Jersey Chapter about her virtual classes. She felt compelled to respond to the need to keep people with PD moving. “People can’t miss time with the classes or they lose flexibility and range of motion,” she said. Menard’s classes run three times per week, and they are drawing clients from around the region and from as far away as North Carolina and Florida.

Pegado has been choreographing sessions for the Parkinson’s community for six years. Her twice weekly classes in Amherst and Kenmore have become incredibly popular, and the response to the virtual sessions has been equally successful. Through coordinating specifically conceived movements with music, Pegado’s PDdance program helps improve range of motion, balance stability and cognitive strength. The virtual studio allows attendees to socialize and keep the sessions fun, which is a very important component of all these activities.

Feldenkrais and yoga, though different practices, raise a person’s awareness about their posture and movements. Bringing greater cognitive focus to our physical movements can benefit someone who experiences restricted motion or muscle pain. Niemanis has recently invited the PD community to join her Feldenkrais sessions, and she is offering a virtual class per week. Pignataro has been working with the local Parkinson’s community for a few years, and he has found the virtual realm a great way to continue helping. Both are drawing appreciative audiences to their efforts.

For more information about any of these classes, please contact the Parkinson’s Foundation, New York and New Jersey Chapter at 716 449-3795 or

“We are thrilled with the local outreach to our growing Parkinson’s community,” said Chris Jamele, Parkinson’s Foundation, New York and New Jersey chapter development director. “These efforts are incredible, and having them happen during April, National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, helps bring even greater attention to our PD community and the great work of these facilitators and the Parkinson’s Foundation,” he continued.

The Parkinson’s Foundation has responded to social distancing challenges by creating PD Health@Home. This series presents a different online or virtual wellness-related program Monday through Friday. Topics include mental and physical health, webinars with PD specialists, and local, virtual programming. PDHealth@Home along with a wealth of information about symptoms, treatments, being a care partner and many other aspects associated with PD can be found at or by calling the Parkinson’s Foundation Helpline at 1 800 473-4636. Information specifically regarding the Coronavirus and PD can be found by visiting

If you are looking for a feel-good story that is emerging from the Coronavirus experience, this might help. A group of local facilitators are taking their movement oriented, health related programming online to reach the local Parkinson’s community. Movement is critical in the battle against Parkinson’s disease, and social distancing has made receiving necessary therapy challenging. These wonderful people are finding a way to help.

Contact information for reaching the facilitators:

Cindy Menard – 716 866-8988

Cynthia Pegado – 716 725-7923

Mara Neimanis – 410 800-8685

Larry Pignataro –