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Paula Roxana Vargas
President and Founder

Paula Roxana Vargas is truly something else, a force of nature. When she sets her mind to accomplish something, giving up is not an option. She will see it through, done well, done right. Her life changed dramatically in 2010 when she began caring for her mother, Roxana, first diagnosed with Cognitive Impairment, followed by Parkinson’s two years later, at the age of 65. Paula and her mother were determined to understand this disease and to ensure that Roxana continued to live a full life. Roxana died at home January 12, 2020 at 2 p.m. of Parkinson’s Disease, surrounded by her family. 
  
Recently, Paula was reminded by one of her mom’s neurologists that she was, “one of a kind.” (She hopes that was a compliment!) When it came to ongoing collaboration with her mother’s medical team, Paula did not hesitate to challenge those who seemed to be indifferent to her mother’s ongoing challenges living with this disease. She would often speak up, questioning whether they really cared about the emotional turmoil both patients and caregivers were experiencing. She’d ask, “Where is your conviction of the heart?” When Paula was told, "NO! It's impossible, there's no funding, no resources, etc.,” this simply pushed her to fight harder, to find better ways to care for her mother. By tirelessly seeking knowledge, guidance, and direction from other peers and professionals she was able to go above and beyond for her mother and in her professional capacity as a clinician, for others with whom she was working who were facing similar obstacles. 

 
After acquiring an MBA with an emphasis in Marketing and Communications, Paula’s first career was working in the building industry, focused on marketing and lobbying. She has extensive experience building strong market brands with new and existing clientele. She has worked closely with city officials, Chambers of Commerce, trade associations and the Building Industry Association, lobbying on their behalf in Sacramento. 
  
When faced with her mother’s illness, Paula wanted to learn all she could about PD and other degenerative diseases. She pursued a Master’s in Psychology and began working as a mental health clinician. Paula was able to guide and educate numerous families dealing with mental illness and degenerative diseases and to discover more ways to help her mother and her family cope with this diagnosis. 
  
That was still not enough; Paula pursued and studied a post-graduate level Neuroscience. Seeking still more knowledge, still more answers, she is now completing a post-doctorate in Psychology, with a dissertation, focusing on Parkinson’s treatments and interventions. 
  
During her mother’s illness, as a professional clinician affiliated with Kaiser Permanente and UCLA, Paula was able to access a wide range of ground-breaking treatments and clinical trials for her mother. Among these were: speech, and music therapy, occupational therapy, neurofeedback, mindfulness meditation, and yoga. Roxana also participated in the UCLA Center for Alzheimer’s Disease study on brain imaging and PD biomarkers, in multiple clinical trials, and she received ongoing treatment with the Amen Clinic and Brain Performance. 
  
It was through these extensive efforts to help her mother that Paula became painfully aware, both personally and professionally, that most families faced with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s have neither the knowledge, time, nor resources to help their loved ones with the devastating progression of this disease. Paula intends to change that. Once again, she is learning more, seeking more answers. Based on her experience with her mother, and the daily challenges they faced together in finding treatments, interventions, therapies, and care, Paula is now committing her life to advocating for others living with Parkinson’s – both patients and their caregivers. By creating PARK4U™ Paula is fully dedicated to helping each person find compassionate care and support on their Parkinson’s journey.  

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pvargas@park4u.org 

 
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Michael Armstrong
Chief Executive Officer

Mike brings a wealth of experience as a business owner, an insurance broker, a small business consultant, and a tax professional. For 15 years he operated a small fleet of food trucks while becoming controller and accountant for the food truck commissary. The company was later purchased by Eagle Foods, and Mike continued to work with them as Controller until 2003.

 

He became a licensed Farmers Insurance agent in 1995 and in 2003, he established Mike Armstrong Insurance Services, Inc. Mike is also a licensed tax preparer with the State of California and a certified Covered California agent. He is dedicated to helping individuals and small business owners with insurance needs and accounting services. Mike continues to offer his expertise to the community.

 

His experience as both an insurance broker and a Covered California agent has allowed him to provide personal health care insurance guidance and coverage evaluation for a diverse population with a broad spectrum of medical needs. This perspective and professional experience gained through decades of helping with the healthcare needs of clients and families will be invaluable for patients and caregivers with Park4U.

 

A life-long friend of Daniel and Roxana Vargas, Mike is committed to having a tangible impact improving the lives of those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease.

 

In addition, Mike is a lifelong musician playing trumpet in rock bands, including several concerts with The Beach Boys!

marmstrong@park4U.org

 
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Daniel Vargas
Chief Financial Officer

 

Daniel’s entrepreneurial background and business acumen have involved multiple business ventures as diverse as bakeries, movie theaters, high-end boutiques, wineries, real estate, and insurance. Working at Farmers Insurance since 1999, Daniel is well-known for his commitment to helping folks, especially low-income families, with all aspects of their insurance needs. He sees his role as one of education and guidance to help people prepare for life’s unexpected events. Many families and individuals come to him for insurance needs, guidance and support related to new business ventures, and leave as friends for life. He has touched countless lives with his kindness to others.

His own life took an unexpected turn a decade ago when Roxana, his beloved wife of 57 years, was live a full life while helping her fight the progression of this disease with everything they had. He was always there for her, loving her, encouraging her, making her laugh, being silly, motivating her, and never left her side without a kiss, telling her how much he loved her. With Paula and Claudia, their daughters, Daniel helped to ensure that the love of his life would have the very best of everything until her last breath.

Daniel’s contribution to the PARK4U Foundation will be to use his financial expertise and loving heart to ensure that patients and caregivers get the guidance and support they need as they face the daunting challenge of living with – and ultimately seeing their loved one dying from - Parkinson’s disease.

dvargas@park4U.org 

 
 
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Claudia D. Lewis 
Secretary

 

Claudia is the Executive Vice President and Co-Founder of Global Branded Solutions, Inc. a minority and women-owned entity. She boasts thirty years’ experience in the branded merchandise arena, inclusive of sourcing and product development. She has a proven track record in cultivating high-performance and customer focused environments. She achieves this by “hiring great people to do great things” and always putting the customer first. She prides herself as a service provider guiding others to make improvements in areas that can yield better results and save valuable marketing dollars. 

 

Were you to ask Claudia to describe herself, she’d choose the word “savage”. To her mind, that’s a compliment. She considers herself ‘savage’ because of the unwavering passion she carries in her heart for her family and her career. She goes all in with what she believes and what she’s working on; she doesn’t entertain mistakes, only strives harder to find solutions. Claudia works tirelessly to deliver the best possible outcomes in her life and in her work. Her skillset includes building exceptional interpersonal relationships by building  heart-to-heart connections with people. 

 

Claudia lost her mother to Parkinson’s. The savage passion and whole-hearted dedication that guides her life will now be brought to help others through PARK4U.

clewis@park4u.org

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Akila Bacon
Vice President

Akila Bacon brings her expertise to PARK4U as a pre-licensed mental health therapist for the past eight years.  Akila is completing her doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy. She is currently working as the Quality Improvement Specialist in a mental health agency where she is responsible for supervision and training of new therapists. Her background includes a great deal of practical experience with clients as a therapist in a residential and community-based treatment center.  She has conducted parent training seminars for the Santa Clarita Valley. Akila is trained in multiple evidence-based practices such as Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT), Seeking Safety, and Interpersonal Therapy (IPT), and she is certified in Managing Adaptive Practices (MAP).

 

Akila has worked closely with Paula and her family over the past several years as Paula’s mother’s condition deteriorated. She truly empathizes with the challenges that families face while caring for a family member with Parkinson’s disease.  She will offer valuable experience in helping family caregivers process their emotions and cope with the inevitable progression of the disease. She understands the heart-breaking changes the family must face when losing a loved one. Akila knows that helping caregivers stay strong and healthy themselves is critical in order to maximize quality time with their loved ones and help to maintain their quality of life.

 

Akila will also use her skills as a mental health professional to spread awareness and offer psycho-education to the public, and to provide maximum emotional support to the families dealing with neurodegenerative diseases.

 

Here is a little-known fact: Akila has a Bachelor’s in Radio Communications and had a radio show for four years on a college radio station, so unlike many of us, she actually enjoys public speaking!

 

abaskin@park4U.org

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Guy Langer 
Co-Chair

A graduate of Pitzer College, Guy has spent most of his professional life in the Health, Wellness and Personal care industries. He worked for D.D. Chemical as a Senior Salesperson and subsequently became Vice President of Sales and Marketing for that company. He currently consults for several major cosmetic ingredient suppliers, including Barnet Products, Global Ingredient Solutions and previously with Integrated Health. Guy has also been affiliated with the Society of Cosmetic Chemists (SCC) and has served on the boards of several industries. For the past twenty years Guy has been active in and on the board with Beauty Industry West (BIW), a West Coast Cosmetic Industry group which focuses on branding and entrepreneurship. Guy has been President, Speaker Chair, and more recently, Sponsor Chair for over ten years. 

In addition to Guy’s connection to and passion for health, wellness and personal care, Guy has been a popular speaker at industry events at UCLA, SCC, BIW, Natural Product Expo West and the Canadian Cosmetic Symposia. He has also written over a dozen articles for various related publications, concerning anti-aging, sun care, cosmetic trends and new technologies in the field.

A true renaissance man, Guy also hosts talk shows and writes and performs comedy! He co-authored a documentary called Alien Technology, hosted by Stacy Keach, which was nominated at the New York Independent Film Festival, and which has received over a million YouTube hits! 

Guy is a long-time philanthropist and member of the Pitzer Society, which supports the college and its educational endeavors, and gives to numerous other educational, environmental, animal rights, and children’s charities.  Guy’s business acumen, knowledge of health and wellness industries, as well as his public speaking and comedic talents will bring valuable contributions to PARK4U.

glanger@park4u.org

 
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Daniel Aldrich
Co-Chair

 

Dan has worked in the financial services industry for the past thirty years and currently serves as Founder and President of Aldrich Wealth Management Group in Burbank, California.  In addition to serving families in his professional life, Dan has had a strong desire to help and support people with life-altering injuries or illnesses. At the age of 18, Dan was a competitive world-ranked water ski racer. He was injured in a race which resulted in paralysis of his left arm. His decision at the time to stay in the game of life and help others to do the same has become his passion. For the past thirty years, Dan has been actively involved in adaptive athletics, particularly golf. He has served on the Board of Directors for several non-profits which emphasize athletic challenges for the differently-abled. Currently, Dan is President of the North American One-Armed Golfer Association, on whose board he has served for ten years.  He has also proudly served on the following boards: Rotary, Make-A-Wish Los Angeles Jr Board, Forged by Fire, and the United Brachial Plexus Network.  Dan continues to be an active athlete and does fundraising for the Challenged Athletes Foundation.
 

His personal interest in Parkinson’s grew out of a golf game with his Great Uncle Bob, some thirty years ago, just a few years after Dan’s own accident. Uncle Bob had Parkinson’s, yet despite that, was out there whacking the ball with the best of them. Dan wrote to Uncle Bob after the match, sharing how inspired Dan had been by his uncle’s spirit and encouraging him to stay strong and be proud of who he was! Staying active and continuing to do what you love is essential to maintain the quality of life with Parkinson’s or any other degenerative disease. Right from the beginning of his own injury, Dan was helping and serving those differently-abled.

A recent invitation to a charity golf tournament re-introduced Dan to the world of Parkinson’s and athletics. The tournament, “Grip It and Rip It,” raises funds for Neuroboxing and the Parkinson’s Foundation to create exercise and wellness programs to help those impacted by Parkinson’s disease.  With fond memories of his Uncle Bob and his personal experiences of the power of athletics for those with injury and illness, Dan is passionate about making a difference for the Parkinson’s community.

Dan has also spent the past ten years assisting the effort to get disabled golf in the Paralympics. When this sport becomes an official sport for the Paralympics, you can be sure that Dan Aldrich will have had a hand in it! His offer to be part of the PARK4U Board will definitely enrich us all.

daldrich@park4u.org

 
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J.M. Kenny
Executive Producer & Director of Podcast, "The Kenny & Vargas Show: Parkinson's Destroyed My Career, but Saved My Life."

 

J.M. Kenny is an award-winning creative content producer/director whose IMDb filmography is as robust as his life and how he chooses to live it. It was during a producing stint for the Academy Awards when Mr. Kenny first noticed discomfort in his right leg. Two years later, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at age 46. Playing to his strengths, Mr. Kenny became an impassioned patient advocate and panelist for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Oregon Health & Science University, and other notable organizations. Adding to his list of prestigious credits, Mr. Kenny “shot to fame as a hand model,” alongside his wife, for the medication, Ongentys®, which is used to help reduce “off” time Parkinson’s symptoms. With his infectious brand of self-deprecating humor and off-color candor, Mr. Kenny shares his personal experiences on the no-holds-barred podcast, “The Kenny & Vargas Show: Parkinson’s Destroyed My Career, but Saved My Life,” which he co-created and co-hosts with PARK4U founder, Paula Roxana Vargas. Mr. Kenny also serves as an Advisory Board Member for PARK4U.  When asked how having a progressive neurological movement disorder has impacted him, Mr. Kenny said, “I’m just an ordinary guy who’s had a charmed life in the entertainment industry. Helping other people with Parkinson’s brings me joy.”

 
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