Taking place at Creation’s ethereal skyborne Creations Park Dance Club and Living Light complex, the event comprises a special presentation of particle magic by the Sky Fire team, entitled Cosmic Circus and featuring Particle Tom and Lexi Marshdevil. It will be followed by a celebration dance featuring DJ Sunshine.
If you’ve never seen a particle show in Second Life, then Sky Fire make for a superb introduction, and the Living Light complex at Creations Park makes an excellent venue in which to enjoy the show. What’s more, 100% of all donation made during both the show and the dance will go directly to Team Fox, and thence to the MJFF, contributing directly to the ongoing search for a cure for Parkinson’s Disease, and to ways and means of alleviating the symptoms for those already afflicted by the disease.
As particle shows are popular, the advice is to attend the venue early to be sure to gain a seat. Please lightening the load by removing excess scripted objects, etc., and set your local time to midnight to fully appreciate the show.
Don’t forget as well that Creations Park hosts a series of events throughout the week, with an open invitation to anyone wishing to attend, and all of the proceeds from which go directly to supporting Team Fox and the MJFF (all times SLT):
18:00 – 20:00: “Embracing the Light” dance and discussion with Ananda & Redorange.
About Creations Park
Creations Park was established by Barbie Alchemi after witnessing the beneficial effects Second Life had on her mother, Fran Serenade, a Parkinson’s sufferer and who first became involved in the platform, along with Barbie, as a means for family members to keep closer contact with one another across the breadth of the United States. Creations is dedicated to raising donations for the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF).
As well as running a range of fund-raising events and activities, the Park offers support groups and research into the positive effects of Second Life for people with Parkinson’s Disease. 100% of all donations received through events at, and visits to, Creations Park go directly to Team Fox and the MJFF. All costs and expenses associated with the region are met directly by Barbie’s family.
Saturday September 20th marks two special events in support of Team Fox and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, and they extend warm invitations for you to attend.
Team FoxSL Autumn Gala
The Team FoxSL Autumn Gala will be taking place throughout the day in the ballroom of the stunning LeFevre Mansion, the event’s sponsor. Starting at 10:00 on Saturday September 20th, it will feature fashion shows, live music and dancing, and more:
10:00 SLT: fashion show hosted by BLVD featuring designs by Solde Rothmanay, Solas naGealai, Dainie Fraina and Kylie Sabra
11:00 SLT: a live music performance by Quar
15:00 SLT: a live music performance by Mankind Tracer (Seth Regan)
18:00 SLT: fashion show hosted by BLVD featuring designs by Solde Rothmanay, Solas naGealai, Dainie Fraina and Kylie Sabra
Plus – throughout the day – a silent auction with amazing prizes and fashion designs.
So be sure to make time to pay the gala a visit, attend one of the shows, join with the dancing and bids for the things that take your fancy in the auction? In fact, given the location, why not spend the time between events exploring the magnificent mansion and its parklands? There is much to see, as I noted back in March 2014.
TeamFox SL was founded in 2008 by Solas NaGealai, and was the first official representation for Team Fox, the grassroots fundraising organisation for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (MJFF), in Second Life. Team Fox SL is dedicated to raising funds for the MJFF, disseminating information about the disease, and providing support for those diagnosed with the illness and their families. 100% of all donations received by Team FoxSL goes directly to Team Fox and the MJFF.
As one in twenty of the 8 million Parkinson’s sufferers worldwide is below the age of 40 – as were both Michael J. Fox and Solas herself when they were both diagnosed with the disease – a particular focus of TeamFox SL’s activities is that of Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD), and you can read more about their work through my recent article and chat with Solas.
Bilbo Baggins Birthday, which is being held in support of Creations for Parkinson’s, will be held at the Hobbit Hole on Bran and hosted by Branwen Arts. Coinciding with Tolkien Week, the Birthday will celebrate a hobbit’s life in literature and offer a feast of storytelling kicking off at 11:30 SLT on Saturday September 20th:
11:30: Caledonia Skytower – Introduction & Dinner with Dwarves (from “An Unexpected Party”, The Hobbit)
12:00 noon: Kayden Oconnell – Meet the Trolls (from “Roast Mutton”, The Hobbit)
12:30: Corwyn Allen – Riddles in the Dark (from the chapter of the same name, The Hobbit)
13:00: Kayden Oconnell – The House of Beorn (from “Queer Lodgings”, The Hobbit)
13:30: Luna Branwen – Bilbo Meets Smaug (from “Inside Information”, The Hobbit)
14:15: Caledonia Skytower – A 111th Birthday Party (from “A Long Expected Party”, The Fellowship of the Ring)
15:00: Dubhna Rhiadra – Bilbo & Frodo in Rivendell (from “Many Meetings”, The Fellowship of the Ring)
15:30: Aoife – Leaving Middle Earth (from “The Grey Havens”, The Fellowship of the Ring)
Creations for Parkinson’s grew out of the work of Barbie Alchemi and her brother, AlmostThere Inventor, in building a place in Second Life they could share with their mother, Fran Serenade, who had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s – a disease which had also claimed the life of her husband. Today, Creations Park offers a range of locations above and below the waves which are open to visitors to enjoy and explore.
Creations for Parkinson’s holds events throughout the year, often in collaboration with Team Fox SL, and 100% of all donations received goes directly to Team Fox. You can read more about Fran and Barbie’s story through this blog, or witness it through the award-winning Drax Files World Makers video of their lives.
About the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and Team Fox
The MJFF was founded by Michael J. Fox after he had been diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD) when just 29. He refers to it as a business in the business of going out of business – by finding the means to combat Parkinson’s more effectively and bring about a lasting cure.
In the fourteen years since it was established in 2000, the MJFF has raised over $400 million, money which has been put to use funding a broad-ranging and aggressive programme of research into a number of areas related to the disease: defining it, altering it, investigating untreated symptoms and developing new tools to assist in further research activities.
Founded in 2006, Team Fox is the grassroots fundraising arm of the MJFF, established in response to requests from Michael’s fans and other Parkinson’s sufferers to help support the Foundation’s work. To date, it has raised some $27 million which has gone directly to the Foundation’s research activities.
There have been a number of reports in the media of late about a potentially significant breakthrough in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. These reports, which have appeared on the pages of the Parkinson’s UK website, and through agencies such as Time Warner Cable News, are about a new vaccine which might slow, or even stop, the progression of the disease.
The vaccine is being developed in Austria with partial funding from the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research (referred to simply as the MJFF), and the publication of the reports on the work suggested an opportunity for me to write about the ongoing work of TeamFox SL here in Second Life in the battle to find a lasting cure for Parkinson’s disease, and in helping to support people diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease.
Parkinson’s is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, which manifests itself in many ways. The most visible symptoms are related to movement: shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking, but it can cause bladder and bowel problems, speech and communication difficulties, vision disorders, and can also give rise to psychological problems such as depression. Around one in 500 people suffer from the disease world-wide and there is currently no known cure, although symptoms can be controlled through medication, therapy and, in some cases, surgery.
It is most often seen as a disease affecting people of 50 or older, but this in itself masks a fact: a form of Parkinson’s disease can strike people at a much younger age, and one in twenty of the 8 million Parkinson’s sufferers worldwide is below the age of 40. This variant of Parkinson’s is known as Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease (YOPD). It differs from older onset Parkinson’s because genetics appears to play a stronger role in YOPD compared to older onset, and the symptoms may differ, together with the response to medication.
One of those under the age of 40 who was struck by the illness was Canadian-born actor, Michael J. Fox, who started showing symptoms as a YOPD sufferer when he was just 29 and filming Doc Hollywood. In 1998, he revealed his condition to the world before establishing the MJFF in 2000, which is dedicated to carrying out research into both combating the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and to finding a cure. It is now the largest non-profit organisation researching Parkinson’s.
Funding such an aggressive research campaign as run by the Foundation doesn’t come cheap, although they are massively targeted in how they spend their funds. So, to help with fundraising efforts, and in response to Michael’s fans wanting to help with efforts in 2006, the MJFF established Team Fox, a grassroots community fundraising programme. In the eight years since it’s formation, Team Fox has raised over $27 million to help the Foundation’s research through a wide range of public-focused activities and events – which include Second Life, where TeamFox SL is helping to lead the fight.
TeamFox SL was founded by Solas NaGealai. In 1999, well before her involvement in Second Life, she was diagnosed with YOPD. “It was the same time as Michael J Fox disclosed his condition to the public, making my diagnose less tragic and me feeling less alone,” she says of her situation. “The hardest part about being young with Parkinson’s is learning how to juggle a career and a family, along with the life changing illness.”
When first diagnosed, Solas was a full-time fashion designer. However, as the illness progressed, she was forced to leave that career behind. Fortunately, her discovery of Second Life allowed her a way to re-engage in her passion for design, and she founded her own fashion label at Blue Moon Enterprise.
Even so, she wanted to do more, particularly to help with the Foundation’s work. “I knew I could not sit idle,” she says. “To quote Michael, ‘Our challenges don’t define us. Our actions do.’ The strength and optimism I saw in Michael created a spark inside me. With that optimism, I wanted to find a way to give back to the MJFF, to show support and help.”
That way came with the founding of Team Fox. Not only did Solas direct 100% of the proceeds from the sales of her SL designs to Team Fox, she also established TeamFox SL in 2008, the first Team Fox presence to be established in SecondLife, and to be officially sanctioned by the organisation.
Team Fox SL is dedicated to raising funds for the MJFF, disseminating information about the disease, and providing support for those diagnosed with the illness and their families. In this latter regards, TeamFox SL places special emphasis on providing information on YOPD and helping those diagnosed with YOPD.
This focus is for two reasons; the first is Solas’ own experience as someone diagnosed with YOPD who has trod the route faced by many others diagnosed with the condition and the unique challenges it presents. YOPD sufferers are faced with having to consider how to manage a chronic disease while engaged in career, perhaps raising a family – or even starting a family – and maintaining as high a degree of wellness as possible for as long as possible.
The second reason for the focus on YOPD is the SL demographic itself. YOPD affects people who are 40 or younger; an age range which probably defines the greater portion of SL users, and so it is probable than many of those diagnosed with Parkinson’s and who use Second Life are afflicted by YOPD.
In terms of fundraising, TeamFox SL helps to organise events and activities throughout the year and works closely with other Parkinson’s disease support groups in Second Life, particularly Creations for Parkinson’s, established by Barbie Alchemi, the daughter of Fran Serenade, whose own remarkable story I covered in these pages in 2013, and has also been the subject of The Drax Files: World Makers.
Perhaps one of the most high-profile events co-organised by Solas and co-hosted by TeamFox SL and Creations for Parkinson’s, was the Michael J. Fox Premiere Party, held at Angel Manor in September 2013 to mark the star’s return to television in his own series, and at which a staggering L$425,000 was raised in just three hours through donations and a special silent auction.
As a special celebration of the Chinese New Year, which in 2014 falls on Friday January 31st, Creations for Parkinson’s Team Fox is hosting a moonlit dance to which all in Second Life are warmly invited (subject to region capacity, obviously!).
In keeping with the fact that the Chinese calendar is lunisolar, and the New Year festival itself is sometimes referred to as the Lunar New Year, the dance is to be held under the stars on the Creations Rooftop Garden, which will be specially transformed for the event. Festivities kick-off at 17:00 SLT on Friday January 31st and will run through until 19:00.
So, come mark the start of the Year of the Horse and join in the celebrations and fun, which will include wishing lanterns and free gifts as well as music and dancing. All donations will go directly to Team Fox and the fight against Parkinson’s Disease.
Be sure to accept the local windlight settings on your arrival, or manually set it to Phototools Moon Light 02 (if available in your viewer’s windlight presets, otherwise try midnight).
Gung Hei Fat Choy!
Travel to Old World Japan
Old World Japan – Return to Kyoto is a group exhibition opening on Monday February 3rd at the Creations Park Fine Art Gallery, and which will run through until the end of March.
The exhibition will include works by ooYukichioo, Silent Ying (who brings the traditional game of GO to Second Life, complete with scripted board and demonstrations at the gallery as well as presenting historical art of the game being played), Shambala Kimono, ButterflyAire Fine Art, EvanArt SL Photography, LeLiiLa SL Photography, Zanth Fine Art and more.
All donations at the exhibition will go directly to Team Fox. Money from art sales with either be donated in full to Team Fox or on a 50/50 basis. The opening will be marked by a special themed dance on Monday February 3rd from 18:00 to 20:00 SLT – so get your kimonos ready!
The February Exhibition is one of a number which will be taking place throughout the year at the Creations Fine Art Gallery. The current schedule of exhibitions comprises:
February – March: – Return to Kyoto – Old World Japan
In September, I covered the story of Fran Swenson, an 86-year-old suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, her daughter Barbara, and their experiences and times within Second Life.
I wasn’t the first to come to Fran’s story, which is remarkable in the way Second Life has had a positive and uplifting impact on her life; Hamlet Au did that way back in February. But such is her story, it does deserve to be heard and re-told, be it through blogs like Hamlet’s or this one, or through media coverage such as in the San Diego Union-Tribune.
Now, both Fran and Barbara – Fran Serenade and Barbi Alchemi respectively in Second Life – get to share their story and their insight and wisdom in the latest edition of The Drax Files. And I’m not exaggerating when I say that, in what has already been a truly outstanding series, this is the most powerful segment to yet come to our screens.
Having lost her husband to Parkinson’s in 2003, Fran found herself diagnosed with the illness the following year. Over time, she relocated from the east coast of the United States to the west, and as a result, her son Ken, still living on the other side of the country in Florida, proposed the idea of using Second Life as a means of bringing the family together more easily, offering to build a home for them in-world.
Barbara, also residing on the west coast, admits that, initially, she wasn’t that keen on the idea. Like many people, she considered SL as little more that a sexual playground, coupled with a steep learning-curve for those not particularly well-versed in the nuances of virtual worlds and / or computer games and environments. It was easier to point a derisive finger at Second Life users than to become one. But once encouraged to give it a go, Barbara soon found herself converted. What’s more, she was amazed when she started witnessing Fran’s response to the platform, both physically and mentally.
Fran’s experiences with Second Life have resulted in Barbara establishing Creations for Parkinson’s, and Creations Park in SL – both of which are designed to bring sufferers of the disease and their friends together in an environment where they can meet and share and enjoy themselves pursuing a wide range of activities.
Fran’s story is also one which has come to the attention of academic researchers such as Tom Boellstorff, an anthropology professor at UC Irvine, and Donna Davis, a strategic communications professor at the University of Oregon and who now leads the Thursday group sessions at Creations.
It was Boellstorff who pointed to the possibility of Second Life triggering “mirror neurons” in Fran’s mind. These are, as Barbara explains in the video, the neurons which allow us to pattern and mirror what we see in others. While there is some controversy as to their classification and origin, their effect on assisting the learning capabilities of young children is fairly widely recognised, and the theory is that in Fran’s case, her mirror neurons are reacting to her time in Second Life and are forging new pathways to connect her mind and body, offsetting some of the impact Parkinson’s is having on her.
While Fran’s own case is still the subject of study and so precludes definitive conclusions being drawn from a medical standpoint, the fact remains that the therapeutic value of Second Life on her own real life – allowing for the fact she is active in other areas of her life as well – is very genuine. In this, she is not alone; several research studies have shown that while our avatars can be highly stylised and all tend to be youthful in appearance, our identification with them can have lasting and positive benefits on our lives in so many ways.
“The avatar represents who I really feel inside,” Fran tells us, “When I look at my avatar, I feel like I’m looking at myself.” This reaction is not unusal; and it does act as a kind of positive affirmation that may well – perhaps thanks to mirror neurons again – offer something of a fountain of youth for the mind which can manifest itself as real physical improvements in health, vitality and happiness and in our self-identification.
However, to think this is a story about the potential impact Second Life may have on health issues is to only pick-up on half the story. This segment of The Drax Files is much deeper than previous episodes because it very much expresses the reality that far from being something that sets us apart from “real life”, Second Life is something which both enriches our real world experiences, and allows us the freedom to be who we really are in ways that are all too frequently denied us elsewhere in life.
Oscar Wilde once said, “Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.” But was he necessarily right? Modern life requires we wear so many masks: the mask we wear to work, the mask we wear to church, the mask we wear when among strangers, the social mask, the stern-mum-and-dad mask we sometimes have to present to the kids, the mask we wear when joining-in with “the crowd”, or “the lads”, or “the girls” when on a night on the tiles, and so on. All of them allow us to express aspects of ourselves, but those aspects are always constrained to what we believe we should be projecting to those around us, rather than necessarily actually being who we are as a whole person.
Of course, Second Life also allows us to wear a huge range of masks in-world, and allows us to do so free of the constraints society would otherwise demand of us. We can be truer to different facets of our personality, to our hopes, our wants, and our desires. But the greatest gift Second Life perhaps gives us is that it actually allows us, if we’re willing to do so, to create and foster environments where we can all safely lay all our masks aside and simply be ourselves without fear of recrimination or judgement.
This is something not lost on Barbara, “We’re free to be who we really are,” she points out. “Sometimes people can be terribly shy, but in here, they open up for some reason. Meeting here with our avatar is a totally freeing experience, there is a deeper level of connection. We really let down our mask, and we are authentically ourselves; who we are will get expressed in our avatar. We’re out of the box.”
We often talk about overcoming the perceptions of all those who would see Second life as a den of digital iniquity and a haven for basement dwellers unable to “get a life.” Perhaps this is the way to do so. Not by attempting to challenge such ideas head-on or argue against them, but to show that Second Life and environments like it are not only capable of allowing completely free rein to our imaginations and creative abilities, but that they are a very valid social extension to people’s lives; that rather than being a means to escape the world, they offer a means to more fully engage with the world at large, and can actively expand our understanding and appreciation of the world through our interactions with the people behind the avatars.
When you combine this aspect of outreach and connection with the free-ranging creative opportunities within Second Life, you have a medium which, as we have all recognised in our time in-world, exceptionally powerful on so many levels for each and every one of us, regardless of age, social standing, background and so on. It’s not about hiding away or needing to escape from the tribulations of life or being unable to express ourselves in real life. It’s about extending and expanding and enriching our lives.
“This is about all people,” Barbara says towards the end of the piece, “Using their creativity in a positive way to make a new world.”
Thursday September 27th will see a special series of events take place across the USA and Canada – and in Second Life.
They are to both mark the premiere of Michael J. Fox’s new TV series and to raise funds for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.
The Second Life event, which kicks-off at 15:00 SLT is the only one of its kind to be taking place in a virtual worlds, and is a co-production between Creations for Parkinsons and Team Fox SL, and organised by Team Fox SL coordinator Solas (solasnagealai).
And there is still time to be a part of the magic!
Tickets are L$1,000 (and limited to 100), with all proceeds going directly to the Foundation via Team Fox, its official grass-roots fundraising arm. The party will run through until 18:00 SLT and will take place in the elegance of the Rose Theatre Ballroom at Angel Manor.