I should not look forward to it each year, but I do. Participating in the Unity Walk is so far out of my usual comfort zone that I should be wiped out the day of the Walk. While I am a bundle of nerves that morning, it is with a happiness and excitement that I meet the day.
I hate crowds -- it is hard for me to walk when there are so many people around -- but I love to go and be among this crowd and somehow I manage to navigate safely through the throngs of people. Everyone is so focused and the energy so positive, that I don't remember any “freezing” or falls from one year to the next. All I remember is how pleasant a day it was. The weather always seems to cooperate and my meds seem to work longer and better.
I don't like to ask people for money, but every year I raise my goal and generally meet it. I normally avoid the fundraiser role in any organization to which I have ever belonged, yet to raise money for Parkinson's research seems a natural outgrowth of my involvement with the Parkinson’s community.
I am usually resistant to change and my Saturday morning routine generally does not include driving into the city but I find I am ready to go hours before my wife is. The day has taken on a ritual of its own. The Unity Walk may be wholly about raising money for research, but it has become holy in its quest to raise awareness of PD, and be part of the larger community. Walking along Margot Zobel Boulevard and visiting the booths there, talking to other parkies, and not quite being able to hear the speakers at the kick-off are all part of my Parkinson's Unity Walk ritual and liturgy.
I try hard to be non-competitive in my day-to-day life -- if for no other reason than that I have PD, and with that comes a slowness of movement, and yes, even of thought. But I watch the team standings for the Unity Walk quite closely. Absurd as it sounds, I revel in the fact that our team has sometimes been in the top 50 fundraisers (including this year!), and once, we were there in the top 20 on the day of the Walk.
The first two years I participated in the Walk, I walked so tall and fast -- I was passing everyone and my teammates were begging me to slow down and pace myself. As the years have gone by, and the disease has progressed, I have slowed down and taken that advice to pace myself. Now I “walk” through Central Park on my scooter but still my spirit soars as I pass under the Start arch, and even more as I approach the Finish.
Team Member, Honors in the Park
|I'll admit it, I am a bit competitive, and anyone unfortunate enough to have an email address in my contact list gets gently harangued from January to May, to support us and the Unity Walk. Looking back through the years that we have participated, there were days when rain threatened, or the morning was brisk, but I too feel that the Unity Walk has become a ritual. Whether we have walked with co-workers, support group members, or with family, we have been proud to be out there, raising awareness and identifying with this community. Even if Joe doesn't remember freezing or discomfort, they were there but it was his choice to move past them. One year he finished the loop on a golf cart, but he still finished.
There have been many more upbeat moments. There was the year after his DBS, when he juggled for a delighted Japanese television crew, and the time he told a drug company rep that their product enabled him to live a more normal life. We look at other people's scooters and mobility aids, and consider what might be most useful for Joe. Most of all, we are thankful that even with PD we can still get out and do things that are important to us, like participating in the drive to fund research to find new therapies, and, we hope, a cure for Parkinson's.
This year, Joe asked me to be captain of our new team, Honors in the Park, consisting of family and friends who joined us at the Walk, raised funds or did both. That meant I got to make up the team emails and track our progress. I am glad to have done my part and walked by Joe’s side in Central Park.
Naomi Goldberg Honor
Team Captain, Honors in the Park