Most people think of Parkinson’s disease symptoms as shaking, tremors or a shuffling gait. But for the 1 million people diagnosed with PD, smaller problems — such as vanishing handwriting skills — can be even more distressing. Roughly 75% of patients also struggle with micrographia, which causes their handwriting to become cramped. Handwriting exercises help, but it’s easy for patients to get discouraged.

Neurocrine, which markets Ongentys, a drug launched in 2020 to treat Parkinson’s, found the perfect way to inspire those with micrographia to pick up their pens again: Handwriting thank-you cards to frontline workers in the COVID-19 crisis.

Our judges love how this engagement with patients came at just the right moment to make an impact. “This is a very emotional, connected story,” wrote one. “And the creative execution is really lovely.”

Launched in July with an endorsement from the Parkinson’s Foundation and a $300,000 budget, patients could order a kit of beautifully illustrated custom cards. More than 1,000 cards were sent to healthcare heroes around the nation. 

With a new run of kits to coincide with Parkinson’s Awareness Month, more than 5,000 handwritten messages are expected to reach healthcare heroes as they continue to fight COVID-19.

The primary outcome, of course, is encouraging people with Parkinson’s to stick with their tedious and typically thankless fine motor exercises. But the secondary result? The warm (and often weepy) gratitude from healthcare heroes as they read those sincere letters. It helped them right when they needed it most.