CHAMPs > Parkinson's CHAMP

January 2017 - Team Kelty

In October 2003, I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at the age of 39. As a wife, mother of four children (age 6-17 yrs) and special education teacher working with young children, I was very active year round. My initial symptoms were not typical and it took about two years of doctor visits until I received a diagnosis. Thirteen years later, I can still vividly remember the initial shock, fear, questions and my denial of the initial diagnosis. How was PD going to impact my life… and the life of my family?  
Participating in my first Parkinson’s Unity Walk (PUW) in 2004 was instrumental in the beginning of my “real” understanding of PD. I saw a flyer for PUW posted at the Columbia Neurological Institute and my husband and I decided to attend. We were apprehensive and didn’t want to bring family or friends to join us as we were still new to this “Parkinson’s thing.” We didn’t know what to expect. In hindsight, we were afraid of the reality of it all. Our experience at the Unity Walk was the exact opposite of what we expected. What we saw was - HOPE. We saw thousands of people of all ages and abilities. People living with PD, their families, friends, doctors, support groups, and Parkinson’s foundations all gathered together in support of a common cause. My doctor was there volunteering his time to help others. The speakers were very insightful. The sheer numbers in attendance was inspiring. The support I felt that day had a significant positive impact on me. First, I realized I was not in this alone. Secondly, the realization that I could take a proactive role in this fight against PD was formidable.

We have participated in the Unity Walk every year since. Team Kelty is named after my grandmother; a woman with a generous heart, strong will, tenacity and at times stubbornness. I believed that these characteristics would be necessary to fight PD. And so far, I have found this to be true.  
We participate each year by walking, fundraising online and organizing fundraising events. We held a fundraising dinner dance for ten years and last year my daughter started the first annual “Team Kelty Beer Pong Tournament.” We have a core group of friends and family who walk with us each year. To say we are grateful for their support is an understatement. We have taken the stance that we may not be able to make large financial contributions in any one year but we can give our time, effort and financial resources - year after year. Since 2005, Team Kelty has contributed over $73,000 to PD research through the Unity Walk!

My family and I will continue to support the Unity Walk each year as we believe in its mission and know that 100% of funds raised go to research.  I will always be grateful to the Unity Walk for that initial ray of hope that was given to me that first year. Team Kelty will continue to be part of passing on the hope for finding a cure along to others on this Parkinson’s disease journey.

Kathleen Ryan
Team Captain, Team Kelty