Parkinson’s Gets “Served” on the Pickleball Court

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CNI Golfers in the Spotlight: Margaret and Tom Melander

Parkinson’s Gets “Served” on the Pickleball Court

When they aren’t helping plan Colorado Neurological Institute’s 15th Annual Golf Classic , husband and wife, Tom and Margaret Melander, are busy serving Parkinson’s on the pickleball court.

According to The World Pickleball Federation, a “pickler” is a “certified pickleball player who may or may not become addicted in the next 10 minutes or less.” Margaret and Tom have no shame in calling themselves extreme picklers. Every time they hit the court, this pair works together to beat the other team, while simultaneously battling their biggest opponent, Margaret’s Parkinson’s.

The diagnosis…

In May of 2011, Margaret was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive condition of the nervous system that causes tremors and difficulty with walking, movement and coordination. Margaret worked as a court reporter for decades, and suddenly she began feeling sore and was unable to maintain her usual 250 words per minute. When she found out she had this incurable disease, she left her job to focus on “living well”.

Since the diagnosis, Margaret and Tom have concentrated on current times. “We no longer wait to have fun. We focus on what we have today. This life change has definitely brought us closer,” said Tom.

So what the heck is pickleball?

Pickleball is a sport that involves two to four players who use solid paddles to hit a ball over a waist-high net on a court one-third the size of a tennis court. The game is a combination of badminton, tennis and table tennis.

The quick speed and social aspect of the game is what hooked the Melanders. The exercise helps to maintain Margaret’s coordination and overall physical ability. If she doesn’t play four to five times a week, she gets the shakes. Pickleball Ken, an ambassador for the sport, jokes, “The one problem I have with Margaret is that she hates to sit. She wants to play all the time.”

Slow down and decompress.

When Margaret is off the court and ready to slow down and decompress, she retreats to her art studio, or what she calls her “happy place”. She didn’t discover her hidden artistic talents until six months after her diagnosis. She always wanted to be an artist. Fortunately, she eventually realized her ability to create such beauty.

Margaret Melands 011Margaret Melands 019 Margaret Melands 015





Parkinson’s does not stop Margaret from living the life she wants to live. In addition to her passion for pickleball and watercolor painting, she also serves as an advocate in the Parkinson’s community. She regularly runs support groups and participates in clinical trials. Margaret is an inspiration to her husband, children, grandchildren and everyone who gets the chance to meet her.

Learn more about the CNI Golf Classic, Colorado Neurological Institute and the services CNI provides for people with Parkinson’s.

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