Daniel Wistran, beloved brother, husband, father and grandfather, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) at the age of 52. Feeling helpless, his daughter, Anna Wistran Wolfe, wanted to fundraise for PD research and looked for opportunities in her local community. She quickly realized there weren’t many options in and around her hometown of Swampscott, Massachusetts. Given Anna’s event planning and marketing background, she decided, along with her family, to plan her own walk to raise funds for The Michael J. Fox Foundation (MJFF).
In 2007, the North Shore Walk for Parkinson’s Disease, a homegrown community event, was created. That year, 25 people came together to support Daniel and his family. Daniel was a well-known physician and community member, so people were inspired to donate on his behalf. “Developing a walk and fundraising for PD gave me and my family a sense of purpose and hope. It really made me feel like I could do something about the sadness and the fear that I was feeling after my dad’s diagnosis,” said Anna. “For both me and my family, it was always helpful to understand that if we raised money for The Michael J. Fox Foundation, we could potentially cure this disease.” After that first event, Anna left feeling empowered to continue the momentum.
Starting with press releases and flyers, the Walk eventually grew to include raffles, a live band and over 200 participants. “When we started to see other families come and wear their own team t-shirts, I thought to myself, this has become bigger than us,” said Anna. “We've given participants a place to gather, to honor, to make someone feel loved, to make someone feel heard. We're fundraising for everyone.”
To help expand the North Shore Walk’s footprint, in 2017, The Michael J. Fox Foundation brought the event under the umbrella of its MJFF Run/Walk Series. “It was great when the Foundation came in to give the Walk the boost that it needed. Since then, we've been able to increase outreach, the number of participants has totally exploded, and we’ve quadrupled fundraising.”
Daniel was a large presence at all of the events and always gave an inspirational keynote speech. On September 4, 2021, he passed away from complications of PD at the age of 74. He later told Anna that the 2019 event was the best day of his life and how thankful he was for everything she had done to get the event to where it was that day.
Since 2007, the event has raised nearly $600,000 for Parkinson’s research. After cancelling the 2020 and 2021 events due to COVID-19, Anna is thankful to be back in-person and to dedicate this year’s event to her father. “This event has really been a place for my family to come together and find hope and community,” says Anna. “It has been a nice outlet for us to grieve and get together with the community to raise money in honor of my dad and to keep fighting because that's what he would want us to do. We’re incredibly fortunate to have had the Foundation behind us all these years and are thrilled to continue raising money for research.”
Anna Wistran Wolfe and her father Dan Wistran.
Anna Wistran Wolfe and her father Dan Wistran at the annual event in 2019.
Dan Wistran and MJFF staff at the 2018 Boston Fox Trot.
Community members supporting the North Shore Walk.