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Steve’s Blog – Sept 8 – honouring a fallen champion, and one who is living – Petticodiac
to Sackville

This morning we start the day by honouring a local champion. Ralph Richardson was stricken
with Parkinson’s Disease and became an enthusiastic supporter of the Superwalk, a Parkinsons
Canada fundraiser. Ralph’s options became very limited during the Covid years, but he had fire
in his belly, and his impulse was to press on, so he used his own driveway as his walking route.
Despite severe walking restrictions he set a goal for himself to walk his driveway for 100 days,
train or shine. He even indelibly painted this goal on his driveway. Aided by his caregiver Greg
and his wife Berys, Ralph achieved his goal, and along the way, caught the attention of people
across Canada and beyond who appreciated his pluck and tenacity in the face of adversity.
When he reached 100 days, he extended it to 150 days, then 200, then 300. But it couldn’t go
on forever, and it seems that 300 was the limit. Berys tells me that his decline was rapid after
this, and he died in February of this year. In total, Ralph raised $32,000 to help end the disease
that took his life.
We were there to honour a fallen champion in Ralph, and discovered a living champion in
Barys. At 79, she continues on as a dynamo in support of Parkinson’s people and causes. As a
group we marched along the driveway perimeter, just as Ralph had done.
CTV Atlantic News and the Mayor were there to capture the event. We continued on to
Sackville, for a total daily mileage of 85km, and drove to Halifax intending to appear on the
Global Morning Show tomorrow morning butg the demise of Queen Elizabeth confounded that
plan. Instead, we will keep our non-cancellable hotel reservations, toast the memory of the
Queen for a night in Halifax, and return to Sackville in the morning to carry on

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Why We Are Doing it

You have probably heard of Parkinson’s Disease. You may even know people who suffer from it.  Get used to it, as Parkinson’s Disease is the world’s fastest growing neurological condition, set to double in number by 2040.

Parkinson’s Disease occurs when the brain’s dopamine-producing cells die prematurely. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter necessary for many functions of the brain and body, including muscular control, and its loss affects all forms of movement and balance, as well as non-motor functions such as memory, concentration and motivation.  Think of dopamine as the electricity in an electric car: without it, the lights dim and the wheels stop spinning.

There is currently no cure, no bio-markers to aid detection, and little is known about how it is triggered, except that Canadians are disproportionately afflicted

Most people living with Parkinson’s reduce or even discontinue regular intensive physical activity after their Parkinson’s diagnosis.  Why?  Their actual skills and abilities do not suddenly evaporate on the date of their diagnosis, though their mental fortitude often does.  As a result, many abandon the very restorative health practices, such as regular exercise, when they are needed the most.  For people with Parkinson’s, intensive exercise can boost energy, sharpen the mind, elevate spirits and keep the body mobile.  Studies indicate that intense exercise can help train the Parkinson’s afflicted brain to use dopamine more efficiently and be able to do more with less.

Let’s use the dopamine we have to build the lives we want.

What are We Doing

Canada is a big country.  It is home to over 100,000 people living with Parkinson’s disease, 9 in 10 of which suffer in silence, isolation, or without the support of a knowledgeable organization or community.  Starting in June 2022, we aim to cross our big country by bicycle to meet as many of these people as possible to personally deliver this message: get moving to stay moving.  

We start In Victoria, British Columbia and ride east through every Canadian province, and hundreds of cities and towns along the way.  Our route is approximately 8,000 km, and we expect to average 125 km a day, six days a week for approximately three months.  Our Spinning Wheels Tour team will include two riders with Parkinson’s Disease, as well as two ride-along supporters to keep things moving.  Along the way, we will be meeting with people whose lives are touched by Parkinson’s, and encourage them to get moving with us, get engaged in support communities, and to set up their own group athletics.

We are not athletes, just people with the resolve to do what it takes to live well with this disease, and to encourage others..  

Along the way, we hope to hear these words, “If they can do it, I can too.”