For the last three years Wollongong singer Jennifer Gray has organised an annual Unity Walk & Run for Parkinson’s NSW. But Sunday proved the biggest to date. After starting with 30 people the first year Mrs Gray had 140 people register for the 2016 event but was surprised when many more turned up on the day. Mrs Gray was aware of the annual walk at Homebush but decided to do one in Wollongong after her father Alan Doughton was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and she realised how little it was known or spoken about it. Shoalhaven Parkinson’s clinical nurse consultant Nina Cheyne came up from Nowra last year and was amazed and delighted by how much the Unity Walk & Run in Wollongong has grown in 12 months. Ms Cheyne, Simone Mintram and Jo Szczepanowski were among a group of 20 from Shoalhaven Shakers Nowra Parkinson’s Support Group who traveled by bus.
“They are really excited. A lot of them struggle with Parkinson’s. I support them with with their care needs and am a resource for them as a nurse who connects them to services. In the Shoalhaven I have over 400 people on my books with Parkinson’s. The Illawarra with a larger population will probably have at least double that number. We know more than 80,000 people in Australia do have Parkinson’s”. Ms Cheyne said the annual walk was as much about raising awareness as it was funds. “We have a lot of awareness around cancer and dimentia and sometimes Parkinson’s can be hidden in the dimentia portfolio. A lot of people with dimentia also can have Parkinson’s. And it does require a different management regime”.
Ms Cheyne said Mrs Gray was amazing for organising an annual fundraising and awareness day in Wollongong.
“She is a real champion for Parkinson’s,” she said.
Ms Cheyne said having a Unity Walk & Run in Wollongong meant it was not as big a trip for Illawarra and Shoalhaven people who in the past went all the way to Sydney for the annual event at Homebush.
The Shoalhaven group do a number of awareness programs, exercise classes and an annual forum. The next one is in Ulladulla.
The highest fundraiser in Wollongong on Sunday was Col Woodcroft who had the support of around 30 people from the Illawarra and Sydney.
Mr Woodcroft was diagnosed 11 years ago and this is the second time he has been involved in the Stuart Park event.
“I came last year and it is even a bigger turn up this year,” he said.
“Unfortunately there is no cure yet for Parkinson’s so I did some fundraising. I am very pleased. I have raised over $2300.”
Mr Woodcroft has also written books about living with and traveling with Parkinson’s to help others. They are available online in the bookstore of Digital Print Australia.
Sunday’s event enjoyed the support of the Bendigo Bank Oak Flats/ Shellharbour, Wollongong Lions Club, Wollongong City Council and many others businesses and people.