Art helps KC woman manage Parkinson's disease

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. - Learning something new is never easy, but what if it helped you manage a devastating disease?

Susan Wiens said that's what stained glass art has done for her Parkinson's disease. She was diagnosed seven years ago.

Among shards of colorful glass, a few people gathered around a table came to see what it could do for them.
"It has been a godsend for me," Wiens said.

That's why she asked other people with Parkinson's to come learn the craft of glass fusing at Bearden's Stained Glass in Overland Park, Kan.

"I do it for an hour every morning," she said. "And by the time I'm finished, I can function. It takes my whole head and focuses it on what I'm doing."

Susan Varner got her diagnosis in 2009. She came to the class even though it sounded like something she wasn't sure her Parkinson's would allow her to do.

"I thought, well. If they're up for it, so am I. I can learn how to do that," Varner said.

A few hours and lots of glass scoring, crunching and popping later, Varner had made a small sculpture of an owl she planned to hang in the window of her apartment.

Perfection isn't required here, far from it.

"Now look what you did!" joked Wiens when getting bumped meant a 'mis-cut' followed by lots of laughter. The kiln the glass will go in melts the harsh edges of the glass anyway.

"If you've lost your laughter, you've lost a lot," she said.

Wiens hopes to continue hosting glass fusing classes with the people of Bearden's. She met the others through the National Parkinson Foundation Heartland Chapter. For more information, visit the foundation's website here:

Anyone can take a class at Bearden's Stained Glass. For class information, visit their website here:

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