What do Alabama, Tennessee and Indiana all have in common? In each of these states, people living with Parkinson’s disease, have taken it upon themselves to create a local walk in their community to raise funds on behalf of the Unity Walk. These are not institutional undertakings. Similar to the Unity Walk in its earliest days, these are grassroots events, organized by volunteers.
Did you ever leave the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in New York’s Central Park and wonder why you don’t have a Parkinson’s walk in your home town? That’s the question Jeri Boyd asked herself on her way home from the first Unity Walk she attended in 2012. She posed the question to her two friends who had traveled with her to the Walk from Birmingham, AL, while they were still on the plane ride home. Without hesitation, they were on board and the Alabama Parkinson’s Fighters Walk was born. Their walks in 2013 and 2014 and have raised over $13,000 and $17,000 in those years respectively. 100% of the funds raised by their team have been donated to the Unity Walk and a number of their team mates continue to travel to the Walk in New York each year.
Karen Sampsell, of PK Hope is Alive is one of the Unity Walk’s strongest supporters and she has never stepped foot in Central Park. Karen started a local walk in Oak Ridge, TN as her way of participating in the Unity Walk without ever making the trip to NY. Her support group, The Parkinson’s Group of East Tennessee, sponsors their local walk and all funds raised are donated to the Unity Walk. They selected the Unity Walk as the organization they want to support because 100% of donations fund research and are distributed to seven major Parkinson’s organizations. The 3rd Annual PK Hope is Alive Walk was held in March, 2014 and raised close to $19,000.
Karen Smith was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease at the age of 43. She had a vision – to raise awareness of Parkinson’s disease and funds for research – and partnered with several friends to create the Stomp Out Parkinson’s Walk in Evansville, IN. The first walk was held in 2006 and the walk is now in its 9th year.
Donations made by sponsors, family, and friends have resulted in the Evansville walk’s raising over $81,000 for research for Parkinson’s disease since its inception and they’re still going strong. This year’s walk will be held on October 18th. Their walk has consistently placed them among the Unity Walk’s top 50 teams. Karen Smith has since passed the baton to others in her community. Janice McGennis, along with a walk committee, now organizes the event. This cause is deeply personal for Janice as well. Several of her family members live with Parkinson’s disease and this is her way of actively making a difference.
Fundraising walks, regardless of size, are an opportunity for members of the Parkinson’s community to gather, experience a sense of camaraderie, provide resources and information, raise funds for research AND have a good time with one another. If you are thinking of creating a walk in your home town, please get in touch with us.