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Walkers advocate for Parkinson's research

By Patrick Bales, The Orillia Packet & Times

The participants in the Parkinson's Superwalk, Sunday in Orillia. PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES

The participants in the Parkinson's Superwalk, Sunday in Orillia. PATRICK BALES/THE PACKET & TIMES

A couple of dozen people turned out for the Parkinson's Superwalk in Orillia Sunday.

The walk, which has raised more than $34 million for research into fighting Parkinson's and support and education for those suffering through the disease and their caregivers, this year saw a quick trip through the trails surrounding Rotary Place in the West Orillia Sports Complex.

About half of those who wore name tags saying who they were walking for all sported the same name. That person was Kate Churchill's father.

She choked up when she described her father and the battle he has fought against Parkinson's over the past decade.

"He's a very strong, powerful man and he fights really hard, every day," Churchill said. "It's really hard to see someone who is so strong struggle with the little things."

Connie Bagley is the organizer of the Orillia walk and a prominent member of the Parkinson's support group in the area. That support group is essential for both those with Parkinson's, and their caregivers and family members.

"It's very important for education and to advocate for people who have Parkinson's," she said. "We find it's usually a patient and a caregiver that comes to a meeting."

A staff person with Parkinson Canada was one affiliated with the group in Orillia. But when she retired, it was up to the group members to fill that person's shoes, particularly when it came to organizing the Superwalk. Bagley stepped up.

"A lot of the support groups are run by volunteers," Bagley said. "They just don't have enough staff to do it."

Bagley is modest though, when it comes to taking the credit for organizing the Superwalk, noting she wouldn't be able to pull it off without the support of the other members of the group, community sponsors such as Subway and Domino's, and Simcoe-North MP Bruce Stanton who hasn't missed a walk since it returned to Orillia a handful of years ago.

The exact amount of money raised was not known at press time.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive, degenerative brain disorder, the second most prevalent brain disorder in Canada. More than 25 Canadians are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease every day and by 2031, Canada's Parkinson's population is expected to double.

Parkinson's strikes young and old, men and women in every culture and race. There are no lab tests that can diagnose Parkinson's and no single cause or known cure.

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