7th WALK-IT for Parkinson’s raised $17,578 last weekend

September 14, 2017   ·   0 Comments

By Mike Pickford

More than 60 people came together last Saturday for the seventh annual Orangeville WALK-IT for Parkinson’s at the Alder Recreation Centre, raising a “phenomenal” $17,578 for people suffering with the debilitating disease.

The event has been growing in popularity  every year since its start in 2012, raising just over $90,000 in that time. Hosted by the Parkinson Society Southwestern Ontario, the event is the organization’s largest fundraiser of the year. Encouraging participants to complete anywhere between one and five kilometres over the course of the afternoon, the walk is as much about exercise and networking as it is fundraising.

“WALK-IT for Parkinson’s encourages communities to focus on exercise and movement – not only through the event, but in participants’ daily lives,” says Shelley Rivard, CEO of Parkinson Society Southwestern Ontario. “Combine this with local fundraising, and we can make a positive impact for those affected by Parkinson’s in Southwestern Ontario.

Parkinson’s is the second most common neurodegenerative disorder after Alz-heimer’s disease. It is a slow, progressive disease resulting from the loss of dopamine (a chemical messenger) in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra. Parkinson’s causes nerve cells in this part of the brain to become impaired or to die. This lack of dopamine results in the adverse motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s.

There is no single known cause for the development of Parkinson’s, although research points towards hereditary and environmental contributions. Primary symptoms associated with the disease include tremors, rigidness, slow movement, postural instability, loss of balance control, soft speech and sleep disturbances. Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s.

Robert Ecclestone knows more than most the impact Parkinson’s can have on your life. Since he was diagnosed more than a decade ago he has learned to cope as best he can with the disease. The coping was made easier roughly three years ago when he visited his first Parkinson’s support group session in Orangeville.

“I was one of those guys that really wanted to keep my diagnosis to myself. I suffered in silence for three or four years while I could before my symptoms started to show themselves,” Mr. Ecclestone told the Citizen. “Then I went another few years where I really was just coping. I knew there were groups in the area, but in the back of my head I thought to myself I didn’t want to go out and sit in a room, shaking in front of people I don’t know.”

He added, “In the end it all became too much though and I realized I needed to get that extra bit of support. Three years on, here I am and I can quite comfortably tell you joining this group is the best darn thing I could have ever done.”

A resident of Fergus, Mr. Ecclestone has made the regular trip into Orangeville once a month to attend sessions, held on the second Wednesday of every month at the Alzheimer Society of Dufferin County building on Centennial Road. He has also made himself available to take on a prominent role in organizing the annual WALK-IT event, and he was very happy with what he saw this year.

“We had so many awesome people out once again this year. Our event is a little bit different as we hold it inside the Alder Rec Centre, where we all walk around the track. It’s great though, we have lots of kids, families, people suffering with Parkinson’s, support workers, family friends… A nice mix of people who are all there, pulling in one direction for the same cause,” Mr. Ecclestone said.

With the seven-year fundraising total now approaching the $100,000 mark, Robert wanted to put on record his gratitude for the local community once again banding together to make Orangeville’s WALK-IT for Parkinson’s a huge success.

“It’s overwhelming seeing this sort of response year after year. To some, $17,000 might not sound like a whole lot of money for a fundraiser, but when you consider the size of our group, it’s absolutely amazing,” Mr. Ecclestone said. “The only thing that keeps going through my head is ‘wow, that’s incredible’ and it really is. That money will go such a long way towards helping those in our region who need it most.”

For more information on Parkinson Society Southwestern Ontario, visit For more information on the Orangeville support groups, call Robert directly at 519-843-9976.

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