January 2012 - Team Crunch

Team Crunch's first Unity Walk in 1997 with Rohun Patel in his stroller. Team Crunch in 2011 with Team Captain, Rohun Patel (second from right).

 

Every year at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk, I am just one of thousands who are there to raise funds for research to find a cure for this debilitating disease. Also like many, I am there to support a relative. In my case, it’s my grandfather or “Dada”.  I have participated in the Unity Walk for longer than I can remember, literally! Here is my story:

My grandfather, Raman Patel, was diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson’s disease in 1985. His daughter Ami (my mom), was a freshman in college; his son Vipul, a freshman in high school.  From that moment on, they were both very involved in the care and treatment that Dada received.  They would accompany him during doctor and specialist visits, and encouraged him to join a local early onset support group, often attending the meetings with him and my grandmother.  Though eventually my mom married and moved away, she continued to be involved and made it a priority to stay active in local support groups.
 
In 1996, she relocated to Long Island, NY and learned about the Parkinson’s Unity Walk being held in Central Park in the fall.  She was all set to attend, but, as it turned out, I was born in early August so it had to wait.  We attended the Walk the following year. I had just turned 1. This was the first and unfortunately last Unity Walk I would attend with Dada.  He wasn’t able to attend any of the following Walks, but during that day, I’m told we had a ton of fun! As I rode around in my stroller, my parents, grandparents, and aunt and uncle enjoyed the beautiful fall day and even ran into some friends from various support groups they belonged to.  According to my Mom, one of the memorable moments of that day was when my uncle looked down and saw me happily blowing soap bubbles with my mouth - while they were busy walking, I had been nibbling away at the top of the bubble soap bottles from the giveaway bags.  My parents have shared many stories about the first few years of the Unity Walk, but my earliest memory is from the year I was in Kindergarten.  I remember the free giveaways, the food, and having a lot of fun afterwards climbing on the unique rocks of Central Park.  Another memorable year was when I was in 4th grade and the Walk t-shirt finally fit me well enough that my Mom let me wear it to school on Monday.  I was so proud.

The atmosphere at the Walk is always friendly, supportive, and there’s an indescribable feeling that you are part of something much bigger than yourself.  Even though you don’t know the people around you, you know that the experience of many of them is very similar to your own experience. Whatever your connection to Parkinson’s - whether you are a grandchild, a person living with Parkinson’s, spouse, child, parent, in-law, or friend - you can be sure that on that day in Central Park, you will be surrounded by others who can completely empathize with you.  

To me, fundraising for the Unity Walk means more than just raising money to find a cure for the sufferers of Parkinson’s - it’s about helping to make sure that other grandchildren don’t miss out on precious time.  Dada was diagnosed around the age of 50. By the time his first grandchild had come along 10 years later, his symptoms had progressed to the point where he was afraid to hold me without support from another adult.  By the time I was 4 or 5 and able to hold a conversation, his speech had deteriorated so much that he would get frustrated when I couldn’t understand him.  I never had the chance to have a proper conversation with Dada. He never had the chance to share his hopes, dreams, desires, life lessons, interests, hobbies, or favorite foods with any of his grandchildren. Sadly, we lost him suddenly to complications of Parkinson’s when I was 6 years old. My brother was 1; my cousin Evan was 4; Asha was almost 2; and his youngest granddaughter, Noori hadn’t even been born yet.  We all missed out.  When asked why I’m involved with the Unity Walk, the first thing that comes to mind is that it is the best way I can think of to continue to honor Dada. The second is that it’s important to me to be a part of an organization where 100% of the money raised goes toward finding a cure so that other families aren’t robbed of precious time by Parkinson’s.   

When I was in 3rd grade, I created Team Crunch in honor of Dada and his favorite candy bar: the Crunch Bar.  Every year since then I have donated a portion of my birthday and holiday gifts.  Last year, in 2011, I decided to step it up and raise money seriously, so I set up an online fundraising page through the Unity Walk website. I was incredibly thrilled when my younger brother Rajan and my three cousins Evan, Asha, and Noori joined my team. We all wanted to help and we all worked hard. We couldn’t believe it when working together, the grandchildren of Raman Patel raised close to $3000!  Dada would be so proud of all of us!  The incredible generosity of our family and friends was overwhelming.  (Thanks again to everyone who supported us!!!)

Every year my family has a blast at the Walk, and Team Crunch continues to grow.  Another cousin, Adit, who attended college in New York, joined us by biking down from his dormitory for the past few Walks and this past year, our close family friends, the Amin family came out as well.  As our team grows, the memories made and the community of supporters also grows.  I can’t wait until this year’s Unity Walk, when hopefully we’ll have even more friends and family come out for the day.  

Rohun Patel, Age 15, Captain,
Team Crunch


 

Rohun Patel's first Unity Walk in 1997.
Rohun and Dada together at the Unity Walk.