The Parkinson’s Unity Walk has been a staple in the Parkinson’s disease (PD) community for 29 years. Each year, thousands from across the country gather for a day of learning, community and fundraising for a cure. The Michael J. Fox Foundation is honored to present the 30th year of the Unity Walk in 2024, and with the help of this community, a cure for Parkinson’s is closer than ever.
As we look back at 30 years of walking, fundraising and memories within the PD community, three participants tell us what this event has personally meant to them.
Margie Alley was diagnosed with PD in 2012 at the age of 48. She was shocked to receive that diagnosis and turned to her friends and family for support. One such friend was an active participant in the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. This got Margie curious about the Unity Walk, so she decided she wanted to participate but the walk fell on the same day as her daughter’s 16th birthday. Her daughter told her to push the party and they would all join her at the Unity Walk that day. That day, team “16 for Margie” was born, now known as “Margie’s Movement”.
The Parkinson’s Unity Walk was Margie’s first fundraising event and introduced her to a broader PD community. At first it was overwhelming, but seeing all the people with PD, and their friends and families supporting them changed Margie’s life. For the past 11 years Margie has been a consistent fundraising presence at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk, beating her own fundraising best every year. Margie’s Movement has raised over $100,000 for Parkinson’s research, but the Unity Walk is more than the fundraising for Margie.
“I love the spirit of the event; just to see the sea of people that all know about PD, live it, get it, understand it and want to support a family member or friend. To me, it’s inspiring.” After Margie was diagnosed with PD, she was in a state of disbelief. The Parkinson’s Unity Walk became her community, helping her become more confident and comfortable with her diagnosis. 11 years later, Margie knows she can count on her friends and family to join her at the Walk. “Thank you, Parkinson’s Unity Walk, for helping me and so many others live well with PD today, and for raising money for research to put an end to PD.”
Margie isn’t the only participant who found community through the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. After her diagnosis in 2010, Debbie Flamini went looking for connections in the PD community. That was when she met Katrina through a Parkinson’s website.
The two communicated through email and phone calls for a year before meeting in-person. Even though neither lived in New York, they both decided to meet at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk in Central Park. Why the Unity Walk? “Because you can walk while fundraising for research” Debbie said. Debbie has since raised over $100,000! For nine years, Debbie and Katrina participated in the Unity Walk. The Unity Walk has been a chance to connect and raise funds for a cure. “I am optimistic my fundraising efforts will yield a better future for me, and everyone impacted by PD.” After the COVID-19 pandemic caused all events to go virtual, Debbie decided to host her own walk in her hometown in New Jersey. Debbie’s virtual walk reflects the values of the Parkinson’s Unity Walk and has brought her and her community even closer.
The common thread uniting every participant at the Parkinson’s Unity Walk is community. But for some, it goes beyond that. For Ted Stein and his team, “Papa’s Rockin’ NJ Walkers” it’s about honoring loved ones. Ted’s father, Saul J. Stein, lived with PD for 13 years before passing away in 2009. Participating in the Unity Walk became a way to honor Saul, who his grandchildren affectionately called Papa, and to help others living with PD. Papa’s Rockin’ NJ Walkers have participated for 16 years, 2024 marking their 17th year participating in the Unity Walk. For Papa’s Rockin’ NJ Walkers, the Parkinson’s Unity Walk is more than a community and a walk, it’s helping other, giving back, finding a cure and honoring Papa.
There’s nothing like the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. An event that is more than just a walk. From the participants who walk to the local partners who create programming to the volunteers who join us, this is a special event for everyone involved. MJFF is so proud to continue the tradition and honor the spirit of the walk for the 30-year anniversary of the Parkinson’s Unity Walk. Debbie Flamini said it best, “The Parkinson’s Unity Walk represents hope for a bright future for me, and the millions living with this disease.”
Join these teams and more at the 30-year anniversary of the Parkinson’s Unity Walk on Saturday, April 27. Register and begin fundraising today.