An interview with Michael Ziomek, Esq. Director, The Shovel Crew Foundation on December 3, 2023 by George Ackerman, Ph.D, J.D.
I am 41 years old. I am a licensed attorney in Washington DC and in Arizona. I am married to Kirsten, and we have 4 children: Max (15), Sadie (13), Chloe (9), Callen (5). I have an older sister Lisa and my parents Martha and Robert all live in Arizona as well.
Can you tell me more about your organization?
The Shovel Crew Foundation to Bury Parkinson’s Disease is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization created in September of this year. It has grown rather quickly, and it has become my main purpose in life, much like yours. Our mission is to build awareness and raise money through local events and outreach. We are proud members of Team Fox.
What is your passion and how did you get involved in Parkinson’s awareness and hope for a cure?
My passion has become this Foundation. I no longer am able to work due to the progressive nature and unpredictability of this disease, so it seems appropriate to educate people and raise money for research and a cure. I was diagnosed seven years ago at the age of 34. It does not run in my family, and I was completely dumbfounded upon my diagnosis.
What type of goals do individuals with Parkinson’s have when working with you?
Parkinson’s is tough, I am not going to lie. There are good days and bad for sure and sometimes it will change from bad to good or vice versa multiple times in a given day. Everyone is different but what I hear the most is the apathy and depression, especially for Young Onset is rough. I personally dealt with it and am still dealing with it to some extent after 7 months of being on meds. Depression comes in many forms and coupled with looking at your own mortality and how the future you thought you were going to have is not stricken from you. It is very tough.
What would you like to see as a future goal for your programs?
The goal remains the same and it is to bring awareness and also to educate people on the whole gamut of symptoms actually involved, not to mention the medicine side effects. We do not offer any kinds of classes or trainings yet, but due to the scarcity of Parkinson’s outreach, specifically Young Onset, the possibilities are endless.
What events do you participate in?
We constantly have events in the works. We had our inaugural dinner event and have more in events in the near future:
- Pierogies for Parkinson’s
- Food Truck benefitting our Foundation
- Back to the Future movie screening
- A Meditation and Sound Bath event
- Golf Tournament
How can someone get in touch? What is your website?
Our website is www.shovelcrew.org and our Instagram is @theshovelcrewfoundation
How can others also become advocates for awareness?
By attending our events and learning the reach this disease has and how devastating it is will really go a long way in raising much needed money for a cure to be found through imperative research.
In your opinion what is the key to effective advocacy?
I think the key to effective advocacy is consistency and events or information that is realistic for all demographics.
How can we better fundraise to support a cure for Parkinson’s?
I think first and foremost there needs to be federal funding. Most of the research to date has come from the Michael J. Fox Foundation and people like you and me. I think once the public finds this out they will see the need. It just takes money for the little guy like me to start to make a dent, but the hope is with my passion and drive my kids will have the choice of better treatment or a cure should they heaven forbid by hit by this disease.
What other activities do you undertake to help improve and support your daily living Eg exercise and alternative remedies?
I have participated in boxing, walking, and golfing regularly. I have recently gotten into mediation and sound healing. It is great relaxation and helps clear your head.
Why should people who don’t have Parkinson’s care about this?
I think other people should care about Parkinson’s because there are so many unknows and it can affect anyone from any walk of life. I am a perfect example; no one in my family has ever had it and I was diagnosed at 34. I pray that I am not going to be the first in a long line affected by this affliction. For this reason, we need to raise money to find a cure.
If you had one song that would tell us more about you or represent your life, which song would it be and what would one final statement or quote you could leave for the Parkinson’s community, what would it be?
If there was one song that I love and firmly believe in it would be “Everyone Wants to Rule the World” by Tears for Fears. It talks about the lust for power and control and the destructive consequences of actions. How this relates to Parkinson’s disease, is no matter how much power or control you have, the disease doesn’t discriminate. Everyone wants to rule the world but Parkinson’s has all the power and control.