Dan Aaron Program Celebrates Five Years of Positive Impact
Shortly before his death, Daniel Aaron, a founder of Comcast and a former Arcadia Board of Trustees member, started the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Disease Foundation. The Foundation aims to help people in the Delaware Valley living with the disease. After Aaron’s death, his wife, Gerri, and daughter, Alison ’85, continued his legacy by creating the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Exercise Program at Arcadia University.
Funded through the Aaron Family Foundation, Stay Fit offers a fitness exercise program to people with Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis. In its fifth year, the program has grown remarkably, while positively influencing patients and enhancing the education of 264 Physical Therapy students.
“We are excited about the growth in the program and the opportunities offered to those who need exercise, their families and our PT students,” says Dr. Carol Leiper, Director of the program. “The students have been overwhelmingly positive about their experiences and have gained a newfound understanding of how families cope with a chronic disease.”
Since its inception, participation has increased from 13 exercisers during the 2004-05 academic year to 34 participants this past academic year. In 2007, a summer program was added and, in 2009, a caregiver support group.
Through the Foundation and the Dan Aaron Stay Fit Exercise Program, PT students also have received scholarships to participate in clinical and research programs for Parkinson’s patients. To date, six students have received the Aaron Family Clinical Education Scholarship, and nine have received the Aaron Family Research Scholarship.
“I’m very grateful to the Dan Aaron Foundation,” says Theresa Speziale ’10, who received the Aaron Family Clinical Education Scholarship. “I learned more about Parkinson’s disease than I ever could have from a textbook or through the curriculum.” As there is no cure, students learn about the challenges that patients face on a daily basis and the key role of therapy in maintaining the quality of patients’ lives. “This has undoubtedly made me a better therapist.”
To learn more, visit: www.arcadia.edu/stayfitprogram.htm.