Walking towards change

Blake Dahlin

A few hundred people are expected to descend upon the Ship Canal Trail in just a few weeks. They will be participating in this year’s iteration of the Optimism Walk. This annual event is one of eighteen being held throughout the nation as part of a campaign put on by the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA).

The APDA was founded in 1961, and is the largest grassroots network dedicated to fighting Parkinson’s disease. Since their founding, the APDA has raised and invested more than $185 million for patient services, research, public awareness and support for those with Parkinson’s disease.

Currently, there are approximately one million people living with Parkinson’s disease in the United States, with new cases being diagnosed every nine minutes, on average. The APDA puts on the Optimism Walk in an effort to raise funds and build awareness about the prevalence of Parkinson’s disease.

This year’s walk will be the sixth annual edition of the event. Teams of family, friends and APDA colleagues will walk two miles along the Ship Canal Trail to demonstrate support for those battling Parkinson’s disease. The event concludes with a lunch, where top fundraisers will receive awards.

But it is much more than a fundraiser event. Those who are affected by Parkinson’s disease have the opportunity to learn more about the disease and extra support that is available to help combat it. Beyond the practical benefit that the Optimism Walk offers, those who march for themselves or loved ones have the opportunity to bond with others facing the effects of Parkinson’s disease.

Jean Allenbach, the executive director of the Northwest Chapter of the APDA, spoke of the importance of the event to those affected by Parkinson’s disease.

“When someone you love is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, it can be frustrating to not know how to help,” said Allenbach, “But then we see that frustration turn into motivation, determination and purpose when people take part in the Optimism Walk.”

APDA utilizes the funds raised by the Optimism Walk to provide care and support services to those suffering with Parkinson’s disease. Some of those programs include, but are not limited to, exercise classes designed for people with Parkinson’s disease, support groups and educational conferences.
Those programs can be vital to the quality of life for someone living with Parkinson’s disease. Dwight Jones, board president of the Northwest APDA chapter, touched on just how important those services are to people affected by Parkinson’s disease.

“Access to the right information and support is key to living your best life, and that’s true for the person living with PD as well as care partners, friends, and family,” said Jones. “The more funds we raise at each Optimism Walk, the more people we can help every day.”

Some of the programs put on by the Northwest APDA chapter include their Take Control Education Series, APDA Research Symposium, and the Powerful Tools for Caregivers Program.

This year’s Optimism Walk begins at 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, June 2, and will continue through the early afternoon, rain or shine.