Jewish Journal

Rasheda Ali Inspires Parkinson’s Awareness

by Lia Mandelbaum

January 8, 2014 | 12:56 pm

In 2003, my mom got the chance to work with Rasheda Ali-Walsh, one of the daughters of the legendary boxer, philanthropist and social activist Muhammad Ali.  My mom was a lead producer for a major fundraising event for the Florida Coalition to Cure Parkinson’s Disease, and Rasheda was one of the main speakers.  It was a starting block for her career as a public speaker and advocate for the Parkinson’s community.  She also served as an honorary chairperson for the coalition in 2002 and 2003.  My mom recalls her being very personable and delightful to work with, and that her husband, Bob Walsh, was very supportive of her work and also very delightful to work with. 

Rasheda with her husband Bob Walsh, and their sons Nico and Biaggio

I got to see what an incredibly down to earth person Rasheda is who absolutely adores her father and sees him as her hero.   Also being the daughter of a parent with Parkinson’s disease, I admired her dedication and conviction about being an activist and voice for her father and the entire Parkinson’s community.  I hoped to be able to do the same for my mom one day.  I recently corresponded with her and told her how much she has been a role model to me.  She has shown me that we are not powerless when a parent gets a degenerative disorder.  

Rasheda with her twin sister Jamillah Ali-Joyce, her father and his wife Lonnie 

I decided to look online and see what Rasheda has been up to these days, and came to discover that she serves on BrainStorm’s advisory board, which is an Israeli biotechnology company developing adult stem cell therapies for neurodegenerative disorders such as Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease.  In 2012 she took a trip to Israel and visited the Company’s laboratories as well as its cleanrooms at Hadassah Medical Center, where she received a briefing on the company’s clinical trial conducted there.

BrainStorm’s President, Mr. Chaim Lebovits, and CEO Dr. Adrian Harel accompanied Rasheda for a meeting with Prof. Dimitrios Karussis, Principal Investigator of the Company’s ongoing Phase I/II clinical trial at Hadassah, and Prof. Tamir Ben-Hur, Head of the Neurology Department. The group discussed the latest innovative treatments for neurodegenerative diseases and BrainStorm’s leading role in this area. 
 “Having heard so much about the recent positive interim safety report and the outstanding progress being made by BrainStorm at Hadassah, I felt the need to actually meet the team in person,” commented Rasheda. “The amazing work being done here gives a ray of hope to patients and families worldwide that autologous stem cell transplants may be the answer they’ve been waiting for to overcome neurodegenerative diseases.”  During an interview with Rasheda for an Israeli news company, she had mentioned that she hopes to revisit Israel with her father someday.  

Rasheda in Israel meeting with Hadassah scientists 

Similar to myself, Rasheda for the majority of her life has grown up having a parent with Parkinson’s disease.  Mr. Ali got Parkinson’s in 1984, when she was around twelve-years-old.  She didn’t really know too much about the disease until her sons, Nico and Biaggio, started asking her questions about their grandfather’s illness.  Inspired by her father’s interaction with her children, Rasheda Ali wrote a book called I’ll Hold Your Hand So You Won’t Fall: A Child’s Guide to Parkinson’s Disease.  Rasheda said, "Children want to understand why their loved ones behave a certain way. By encouraging communication between them and your loved one with Parkinson's disease, you are not only educating them, you are also bringing them closer together."

The book addresses most commonly asked questions from children who might not understand why their loved ones with Parkinson’s disease behave in certain ways. The book is written for adults to read to children, and encourages dialogue through the use of colorful illustrations, situations depicting symptoms, and interactive questions. 

My family and I were thrilled and proud to see that my mom had inspired one of the chapters in the book about exercise.  She had been an avid and competitive runner.  My mom was also one of the few people that Rasheda had dedicated the book to.

Click {HERE} to see interview with Rasheda on Fox News about her advocacy and experience with BrainStorm

Click {HERE} to see her official website and the great video about her father

Click {HERE} to purchase book

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Lia Mandelbaum is known for her advocacy, passion, creativity, and empathy, and is fiercely driven to make a difference.  She is especially passionate about impacting our...

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