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PDF Team Launched at 14th Unity Walk

By Bruce Talbot

“I was blown away by the experience,” Carey Christensen said. “Joined by my daughter, step-daughter and their dad, never before had I been in the midst of so many thousands all united for the PD cause. I have never felt more at home.”

Carey, a member of the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation’s (PDF’s) People with Parkinson’s Advisory Council (PPAC) who hails from the Seattle area, had wanted to participate in the Parkinson’s Unity Walk ever since she was diagnosed nine years ago, but the trip proved too costly. This year, she made it.

She, along with 25 other members of PPAC, the PDF staff and PDF’s Board of Directors, and myself as the elected team Captain, formed PDF’s first Unity Walk team, the “PDF Pacers.” The day was perfect for the two-mile walk thorough New York’s Central Park, where our team joined over 10,000 people with Parkinson’s, families, friends and supporters.

What moved the walkers the most was the camaraderie with thousands like themselves who live with Parkinson’s disease (PD). Joanna Steichen, another PPAC member, summed up these sentiments when she said, “I realized that I had received a wonderful gift: to spend two hours with bright, interesting, opinionated people who understood and accepted without explanation all of our different physical quirks.”

The annual walk gives 100 percent of money raised to the research programs of seven US Parkinson’s organizations. PDF Executive Director Robin Elliott noted, “PDF has been a happy and grateful beneficiary of the walk since its beginnings in 1994 when Margot Zobel and Ken Aidekman rounded up a couple of hundred brave souls to march through Manhattan’s Riverside Park and raise a few thousand dollars for Parkinson’s research. How far we have come since those days!”

The Pacers team, with a modest first-year goal of $1,000, ended up raising almost $5,000 towards the total proceeds of $1.8 million — a record. (The Pacers’ goal next year: $10,000!).

While these numbers are important, they barely capture the spirit of the event. Joanna wasn’t sure she was up to the challenge, but with the help of a walker she completed the entire route. “Exhausted, empowered by sheer will,” she said, “we shuffled to the finish line. Though tired, I felt an exuberance that had been missing for a long time.”

And that — at least if not more than the money — is what the Unity Walk is all about.

Bruce Talbot is a member of PDF’s People with Parkinson’s Advisory Council. He lives with his family in Moretown, Vermont.