To kick-off Parkinson’s Awareness month, we’ve asked Ken Aidekman, Co-founder of the Unity Walk to reflect on the first Walk in 1994 and how far we’ve come over the past twenty years. We are grateful to Margot for her vision and Ken’s commitment and support throughout the years.
PUW Event Director
Twenty years ago, I witnessed 200 walkers come together in Riverside Park to raise $16,000 for Parkinson’s research. This year, over 10,000 walkers will gather and raise over 100 times more than we did at that first Parkinson’s Unity Walk!
I have seen the amazing things that a Parkinson’s grassroots effort can accomplish. I watched a small band of advocates succeed in raising awareness and funds for research in Washington. I saw Margot Zobel take a simple idea for a walk and turn it into a dynamic force for good. She sensed a vacuum in New York and turned it into an opportunity for people around the world. Her strength derived from her conviction that individuals have the power to change their lives through creative cooperation.
The energy that Margot brought to the Walk remains with us today. You can see it in the faces of family members who have traveled great distances to be here. You can hear it in the voices of people living with Parkinson’s who describe how it helps get them through the difficult the months ahead. And you can feel the love that goes into every t-shirt and sign supporting a grandparent, parent, spouse, child or friend.
What is it about this Walk? Joan Samuelson, the founder of the Parkinson’s Action Network, talked about it at the second Parkinson’s Unity Walk.
“I don’t know how many of you were in the same situation I was when I decided to come and people said “Are you going to walk?” and I said “No, I can’t walk that far.” Because often I can’t. And it was pretty nice for me to be with others in the same situation – who didn’t know if they could make it for sure the whole way.
One thing I knew was that it would be OK if I didn’t, which isn’t always true in the world we live in. We try to be equal to everyone else around us. We want to be able to do all the things that we used to do. It’s hard to give those things up. But, it was nice to walk today knowing that if at some point my foot started doing the crazy things it does or if I got tired that it would be OK. And that somehow, somebody in this crowd would make sure that I got here by the end.”
The Walk is about a day of faith, trust, friendship, love, commitment and empowerment. There are many individual teams at the Walk, but no matter what, we are all members of the same team – the team to end Parkinson’s disease.
Together, we take pride in our accomplishments in fostering community and funding research. We find inspiration in our growth and empowerment. But, there’s a long road ahead before we cross the finish line. We want nothing less than the total banishment of Parkinson’s disease from the human condition. Let our battle be remembered as a glorious triumph by those who believed that one person can make a difference.
Each step in Central Park brings us closer to our goal.
Join us on April 26th. We can’t wait to see you!
Co-founder, Parkinson’s Unity Walk