During the last year, Kim Nichols' very personal fund-raising efforts have raised $6,276 to support Parkinson's disease research efforts at Emory University School of Medicine. And she has, remarkably, raised that funding largely through the efforts of her own hands.
Parkinson's has made it difficult for Nichols to use her hands and to walk. Her right hand is particularly impaired, making it necessary for her to learn to depend primarily on her left one. But her hands are still able to skillfully make the intricate folds that create beautiful origami paper flowers--lilies, roses, cornflowers, iris and more--which she fashions into arrangements. Origami is the Japanese art of folding paper into decorative birds, animals and other forms. All proceeds from the sale of Nichols' arrangements go into her research fund, which then goes to support Parkinson's research in the Emory Center for Neurodegenerative Disease.
Parkinson's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that affects a person's ability to move, causing tremor, slowness and stiffness of muscles. Over one million people in the United States are affected with Parkinson's disease.
A resident of Warner Robins, Nichols is a seven-year employee of the Northrop Grumman Corporation's Logistics Services Division there. She does electronic wire soldering, building electronic circuit boards. It is intense hand work, and she says that her company has been "marvelous" about allowing her to pace herself. She still meets all scheduled completion dates for her work. The company and her fellow employees, she says, have also been gratifyingly supportive of her fund-raising efforts.
Nichols was diagnosed with Parkinson's two years ago. She began her personal crusade as a way to combat the severe depression she experienced following the diagnosis. "One day I was talking to God and asked,'What do you want me to do?'" says Nichols. "And it came to me: I can do fund raising. I can use my energy for that. Since then," she smiles, "I don't have time to be depressed."
Not wanting to simply ask people for contributions, she had surveyed her skills. She has done origami since she was a small child in Taiwan. "I don't ask people to donate money; I ask them to buy a flower. That way they have something." It takes about 30 hours to make each arrangement. She even has a personal web site now, http://members.cox.net/kimn105, where she offers the flowers for sale.
The flowers are not Nichols' only fund-raising initiative. She has also prepared a pancake breakfast at the Northrop Grumman plant and cooked an amazing total of 180 orders of fried rice that she sold at lunch. She also held a cake sale and auctioned off a Thanksgiving basket, with items in the basket donated by fellow employees. In cooperation with the Parisian in Macon, she sold coupons which gave purchasers a discount at the store, with a portion of the profits from sales on Parisian Charity Day going to Nichols' fund for Emory Parkinson's research. The Northrop Grumman Corporation also made a cash donation in her name to her cause.
"I think Kim's efforts really stand out and show what a difference one person can make," says Mahlon DeLong, MD, professor of neurology at Emory and Kim's neurologist. "Kim's generosity and dedication to the cause are greatly appreciated."
Kim Nichols is loyally supported in all her efforts by her husband John. The couple met in Taiwan while he was on active duty in the Air Force, and she was working as a Certified Public Accountant for a textile firm there. They have been married 31 "short, fantastic years," according to John. They came to the US in 1973. Now retired from the Air Force, John Nichols is a civil service worker at Robins Air Force Base. The couple has two grown sons.