Austin Brugger holds hands with his aunt, Kim Whittington, as the pair join other participants in the Parkinson’s SuperWalk along Kirkcaldy Drive on Saturday. The event was organized by the Parkinson Society of Manitoba as a fundraiser. (COLIN CORNEAU/BRANDON SUN)
Many of the participants in the Parkinson Society’s SuperWalk on Saturday know first hand how devastating the disease can be. Greg Steeves was among more than 100 people who walked at the event to show support for people who have been effected by Parkinsons. Steeves father has coped with the disease for close to a decade.
"Dads pretty extreme. For him being at Brandon University in the athletic department for 35 years where he was very mobile and now over the past seven years it’s getting worse and worse and he’s confined to a wheelchair," said Steeves. "You don’t talk to them about support, you just feel for them. Some days you come out of their place and you’ll just be crying. I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but like dad says, it could be worse."
There are currently 6,000 Manitobans diagnosed with the neurodegenerative disease and researchers say the number of cases have nearly doubled in the province during the past decade.
Jenn Sherb, community development coordinator for the Parkinson’s Society, said people in rural communities are more likely to develop the disease because of their exposure to agricultural chemicals.
"If everyone lived to be 120 we would all end up with Parkinson’s, because it’s the same part of the brain that ages—it’s just with Parkinson’s the aging is more rapid," Sherb said.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s appear when the cells in the brain that normally produce dopamine die. Symptoms include tremors or shaking, slowness in movement, muscle stiffness and problems with balance.
Dennis and Cheryl Brugger consistently raise the most money for the SuperWalk and are among the most active members in the Parkinson Society in Brandon. Dennis has Parkinson’s and is a board member of the Parkinson society.
"It’s a lot of footwork but it’s enjoyable meeting all the people and many of them are happy to contribute," Dennis said. "It’s wonderful because we’re walking towards the next generation. Perhaps we’ll find a cure yet and that’s what we’re looking forward to — so we can make it better for someone else."
This was the first SuperWalk that Ben Dueck and his family have participated in.
"My wife has been diagnosed with a form of Parkinson’s. My daughter has done a lot of fundraising so were here supporting her," Dueck said. "Events like this help us realize the amount of people that are impacted by it — seeing other people that are going through the same thing does benefit you."
Parkinson Society is a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to serving Manitoban’s living with Parkinson’s. They have four information sessions a month — Saturdays at 1:30 p.m. at the Riverbank Discovery Center — and there is also information available at the Brandon office.
For more information about Parkinson’s, visit parkinsonmanitoba.ca, or call 204-786-2637.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 10, 2012