Mormon hockey coach shows toughness in taking on Parkinson's

By Aaron Shill

Mormon Times

Published: Monday, April 18 2011 4:00 a.m. MDT

His foundation has a dedicated supporter in Grant, a 12-year NBA player who, at age 37, announced that he had early-onset Parkinson's disease.

Peterson sought out the former Trail Blazer, who spent most of his career in Portland, and the two had lunch together. Peterson says Grant was at a familiar stage — the one where a patient asks, "Why me?"

"I basically gave him some tough love," Peterson said. "I basically did what Michael did for me."

The meeting, which was chronicled by a Portland Tribune columnist, served as a catalyst for Grant to start his own foundation. Grant called Peterson a "warrior" and said the hockey coach "reminded me of other people with other diseases who aren't as fortunate as we are, to be able to survive what we're going through."

"Brent and I share a special bond, not only because of the Parkinson's, but also because of our lives in sports and our connection with Portland," Grant told the Deseret News through his publicist. "We know we're in this thing together and it's good to have friends like Brent who understand the ups and downs. It’s an honor to know him and support his foundation’s efforts to fight Parkinson’s, and I truly appreciate his support of mine."

When it comes to fighting Parkinson's, Peterson has been doing a lot of giving. But he rarely asks for help for himself, one of his close friends says.

Overmyer knows, however, that as his disease progresses, Peterson will find there are plenty of people who want to lift him the way he's lifted others.

"Everybody who knows Brent wants to be his friend," Overmyer said. "And because of that they would do anything for him. … He's going to find that he's blessed by his friends."

Aaron Shill is the editor of Features and Mormon Times at the Deseret News.

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