Support Jon Collins in Parkinson SuperWalk
This September I will join 14,000 Canadians who take part Parkinson SuperWalk. As a staff member of Parkinson Canada I truly feel that this year's theme 'Everyday Heroes, Extraordinary Hope' embodies the spirit of our walkers and I am proud to be among them. I walk in solidarity with the community we serve, and with all those I've had the pleasure of working in support of directly.
I came to Parkinson Canada in 2008, just looking for a job. I had no connection to Parkinson’s, no understanding of it, and while I wanted to make a difference, I had a limited interest outside of collecting a pay cheque and feeling good about my work.
And then, I got the job. And I built that cause connection immediately. I built it through people like Elaine Conner, whose heart-wrenching story of losing her life’s love to poor medication management in hospital inspired me to pour my energy into the Get it on time campaign. People like Lorne Collis, who was one of the first contacts I made after moving to Ontario, and whose journey through disease progression robbed him of his ability to move, only to have DBS restore it, and people like Jim Wilkinson whose memory alone raised over $50,000 for Parkinson SuperWalk in 2015.
I met Jim in 2009, right around the occasion of his 70th birthday. He was eager to make a difference after having lived with Parkinson’s for a number of years. At the time, his most pressing issue wasn’t symptom management but it was how he was to explain the realities of living with Parkinson’s to his grandchildren in a way that they would understand. A career educator and former High School Principal, Jim was a father of three and a grandfather of many. With the support and guidance of his wife Maureen, we worked to attribute funds raised in lieu of gifts at his coming birthday party to the reproduction and duplication of a book called “What’s up with Grandpa”. He proudly shared copies with his family, and said it was a great birthday present.
We’d stay in touch, and he’d find occasion to gently rib me throughout the years. He was a man of great humour, a builder of totem poles, and a farmer of giant pumpkins. Simply, Jim was a character. We didn’t work together earnestly again until he came into my office in the spring of 2013 shaking his cane violently at me.
“Jon… I’ve had enough. It’s time we get serious about this thing and really make a difference”.
“Ok Jim, well, what did you have in mind”
“We’re gonna up our fundraising this year…” (pointing his cane at me now) “and you’re going to use it to cure this damned thing”.
And so, he did. That year, Jim founded the Mississauga Warriors and in a few short months they became the top fundraising team in Canada. I’m here, and I’m still working on holding up my end of the bargain.
Jim passed away late in 2014, from complications resulting from a surgical procedure related to his Parkinson’s. A procedure that he was hopeful would be truly difference making, and allow him to continue to watch his family grow. The Wilkinson family lost Maureen four months later.
In 2015, under new leadership, the Mississauga Wilkinson Warriors dedicated the year to his memory and raised over $50,000 – the equivalent of funding a Parkinson Canada National Research Program Grant on their own.
That fall, I presented a ‘SuperWalker of the Year’ award posthumously in Jim’s name to his daughter at a local support group meeting. She shook my hand proudly. Her son was there. I was shocked at how much it meant to her.
I’m eager to take on the role of leading this event on a Nationwide stage, and I’m eager to see it make a difference. Ultimately, I’m hopeful that one day through our efforts – and through growing support of our National Research Program among other strategic priorities – the world won’t lose people like Jim before their time.
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