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Franklin High teens create mascot for world conference

TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Franklin High School Cosplay Club members Annie Bui, sophomore, top left, Cayla Curry, sophomore, and Audrey Finley, freshman, helped art teacher Carrie Berning build Parky the Raccoon, who is the mascot for the 4th World Parkinson Congress in Portland.  There are not many people one can ask when they need to create a 6-foot-tall stuffed raccoon.

“I had every intention of saying no,” says Franklin High School art teacher Carrie Berning, as she adds the finishing touches to Parky, the mascot for the Fourth World Parkinson Congress. “I’m building things all the time, but never in my life would I think I would make something that big.”

The fourth-triennial international Parkinson’s disease conference will be in Portland this year, Sept. 20-23. Speakers and events will draw experts from around the world to discuss breakthroughs and options to treat Parkinson’s disease.

Parky, with his swivel head and huggable arms, will be there to greet them and pose for pictures. It took Berning and a few high school students about five months of occasional work to build the mascot out of a wooden swivel, butcher paper, tape, faux fur, an empty diaper box, and plenty of hot glue.

The hardest part was “gluing all that fur on,” says Cayla Curry, a Franklin sophomore. TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Franklin High School art teacher Carrie Berning watches as Cayla Curry, sophomore, fixes the fur on six-foot Parkinson disease mascot, Parky the Raccoon.

Curry is part of Franklin’s Cosplay Club, which typically designs and builds costumes for comic book or anime conventions. But they were happy to help with this service project.

According to the National Institutes of Health, Parkinson’s disease is caused by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells and leads to muscle tremors and other neurological effects. The NIH says it affects upward of 500,000 people in the United States.

One of the people affected is Berning’s father. She says the project has gotten him more involved in his new community, including plans to attend the September conference.

“This just warms his heart that this is happening,” Berning says of Parky.

She says the large, visible raccoon already has fostered new understanding of the disease and helped build connections at Franklin.COURTESY: CARRIE BERNING - Parky the Raccoon in progress at Franklin High School. The 6-foot mascot took five months to make.

A co-worker came up to Berning and told her that her husband has Parkinson’s, too.

“She said this has helped him realize he’s not the only one,” Berning says, adding that she didn’t talk about it at work much before, either. “Nobody knew my dad had Parkinson’s — that’s not something I go around advertising.

“(Parky)’s definitely been a good talking piece,” she adds.

Parky already is featured in many selfies taken by the Franklin student body, but soon he will go off to wait for the grand event.

“That’s kind of really depressing to think about,” says Audrey Finley, a ninth-grader who helped build Parky. “Oh, I’m going to miss him.”

But Finley adds that she’s happy to have helped.

“We got to build something that’s going to put a smile on people’s faces,” she says.

Shasta Kearns Moore
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