More than 1,300 people joined the 11th annual Unity Walk fundraiser on 26 August.
This year the event raised more than $147,000. Over the past decade, Unity Walks have involved more than 15,000 people raising in excess of $1 million – all of which is contributed to vital research and services for people affected by Parkinson’s.
People with Parkinson’s, multiple generations of families and friends, and a lot of excited dogs took part in walks at Sydney Park, in Sydney’s inner west, and Stuart Park in North Wollongong.
‘Virtual walks’ were conducted by enthusiastic Parkinson’s NSW Support Groups in Bathurst, Coffs Harbour, Cooma, Griffith, Kiama, Lismore, Mudgee and the Shoalhaven district. The walkers were real, but all fundraising took place virtually – through internet
appeals created for each location.
Great supporters AbbVie (a biopharmaceutical company developing therapies for Parkinson’s) couldn’t make it to our Sydney Walk this year. Instead, they created a virtual walk during their national conference on the Gold Coast. More than 50 staff members participated.
For the first time this year we had an official Unity Walk in Park theme song, selected by popular public vote. It was the bouncy “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves – a great sound track for the warm-up and start of the Walk.
The distributed nature and flexible format of this year’s Unity Walk in the Park enabled local communities to create events which best suited their needs and involved contributors from that region.
The Wollongong walk took place in fair weather along the recently opened Blue Mile Walk with breath-taking views of North Wollongong beach.
Coffee was available from the Bar Pellegrini Coffee Van, and the walker warm-up session was led by exercise physiologists from Body Dynamics. Following the Walk there was a sausage sizzle provided by the Wollongong Lions Club while hand and neck massages were available from Purple Sister Massage in return for a gold coin donation.
This Walk – the fifth to be held in Wollongong – attracted more than 250 participants. It was run entirely by volunteers under the guidance of Jen Gray who has a deep personal commitment to fundraising because her father is living with Parkinson’s.
In Sydney walkers had a choice of refreshments and fuel from the Grind n Press Coffee Crew, Inbocca Italian street food stall, and the Sydney Park Kiosk. All food vendors donated a percentage of their profits from the day.
New this year was the participation of the Art for Parkinson’s team. Participants were provided with art materials to create team signs which were on proud display during the Walk.
The Australian Army Band ensemble Frontline once again set the beat for the walk, while the hip-hop group Phly Crew made the warm-up fun and gave the start and finish a party atmosphere. Big smiles all around.
Following the walk, participants were entertained by folk singer Kay Proudlove and comedic juggler James Buster. Professor Simon Lewis also spoke, providing an insight into the research conducted by the Brain and Mind Centre of the University of Sydney.
A big thank-you also goes to our generous sponsors: Harper Bernays, Festival Hire, Webstercare, and Elgood & Son Printers.
Voices from virtual walks
“It was the first time we have conducted this event and it was very successful. Next year we are confident that we can develop it into something even bigger and better.”
Trevor Lyons, Coffs Harbour Young Onset Parkinson’s Support Group
“I was humbled to have so many people coming forward to help on the day, willingly giving time and sharing their experience. This is what makes Cooma so special.”
Sharyn Crockett, Snowy Monaro Parkinson’s Support Group
“In addition to organising our first Walk, we sold Italian crostoli, cakes, biscuits and scones on the day. Not one crumb was left by the end of the event; we sold out.”
Louisa Feltracco, Griffith Parkinson’s Support Group
“Council decided to put the sprinklers on, so we had clear skies but still got a bit damp!”
Jennifer Mannell, Bathurst Parkinson’s Support Group
“Here in Kiama about 50 people walked from Surf Beach to Kendall’s Beach and back raising about $4,000.”
Lesley Errington, Kiama Parkinson’s Support Group
“We had 30ml of rain so our eight walkers did a shortened walk before having coffee at Club Mudgee.”
June Ritar, Mid-Western Parkinson’s Support Group
“Some of our 29 participants walked while others ‘walked sitting down’ on their mobility scooters, and we were also joined by carers and friends. We had great support from the local Lions and RSL Clubs. Vince Carroll, our Parkinson’s Nurse, and his wife Toni also joined us.”
Robbie Handcock, Nambucca Valley Parkinson’s Support Group
“About 50 people walked near the Shoalhaven River then had lunch and socialized. The café where we ate generously donated additional funds for our cause.”
Nina Cheyne, Parkinson’s NSW Nurse, Shoalhaven Region
“A group of more than 55 AbbVie staff joined our Gold Coast Virtual Walk; we were at a conference there. That means half of the conference participants participated!
Todd Arneman, AbbVie, Gold Coast Virtual Walk
“My wonderful work friends organised a surprise rollup to join our Virtual Bushwalk at Glenbrook on Sunday. We didn’t know they were coming; they even had team shirts for everyone!”
Wendy Symington, Glenbrook virtual walk