United we stand against Parkinson’s

Emily, Jessie Kate, me, Virginia, Chloe and Greg
Emily, Jessie Kate, me, Virginia, Chloe and Greg

It’s easy to feel small sometimes (even for someone who’s 6 feet tall). Work and life get stressful, and you feel helpless. I can’t imagine what it’s like waking up every day and trying not to let Parkinson’s disease make you feel small and helpless.

But what I do know, is that on Saturday, April 27, no one in Central Park was helpless against Parkinson’s. None of the more than 10,000 people there for the Parkinson’s Unity Walk.

I don’t even know how to get started talking about our weekend in New York City for the Unity Walk. So I’m going to try to explain the weekend.

First off, it was Emily’s first trip to the city. And man was she excited. So excited, she wasn’t giving driving directions because she was too busy snapping photos.

Here are some highlights:

Emily and I were joined by our very first childhood friend, Jessie Kate, who flew all the way up from Atlanta to join us. We haven’t seen each other in 11 years. My college roommate and awesome friend, Virginia also came up from D.C. with her boyfriend, Greg. Having them there was a cherry on the awesome sundae that was the weekend. (No whipped cream, please.)

Emily and I also got to stay with Meredith and Andy, who we haven’t seen in years. It was so great to reconnect (and to have Meredith help us with the subway for the first time).

Us and the Achins.
Us and the Achins.

Emily and I got to attend the kickoff for the Unity Walk on Friday and it was Em’s first event like that. We were wined, dined (though we forgot to eat), and got to meet incredible people. We spent some time with people from the Michael J Fox Foundation. We met the Achins from Boston, who run a rock, paper, scissors tournament and invited us out to support them. Dad actually texted us at one point, telling us to find the Achins as we were being taken over there by the head of the walk to be introduced. Small Parkinson’s community, I guess.

Also during the event, they were recognizing people who raised a lot of money, and actually said my name. They talked about Pints for Parkinson’s, and how Dad told me to do something I loved — so I held an event at a bar. Emily went from cheering, to laughing at me. As she should. 🙂

Look at all those people as John Ryan crosses the finish line somewhere in there.
Look at all those people as John Ryan crosses the finish line somewhere in there.

Then there was the walk. I can’t explain what it was like to be surrounded by so many people. Normally, a crowd that big would terrify me. But there’s obviously something to be said for that many people together for a common goal: to raise money and cure Parkinson’s. And support those who battle it daily.

And while there were so many moments during the weekend I haven’t mentioned — like Em getting to meet everyone and them finally meeting her — the highlight and best way to describe the weekend, for me, came from Greg.

As we stood there getting ready to walk (which took forever since there were so many people), Greg was staring out into the crowd, quietly. I could tell there were nearly tears in his eyes. I stood there watching for a few seconds, until he turned to me and said (paraphrased):

Look at this. Look at all these people. We’re a part of this, something bigger.

He grabbed me, hugged me, and I teared up a little. But it’s true. It’s something Dad tells people all the time: We are NOT alone fighting Parkinson’s. From patients, to caregivers, to family and friends. We are not alone.

Oh, and we met Muhammad Ali's daughter, May May. Boom.
Oh, and we met Muhammad Ali’s daughter, May May. Boom.

And how could you not believe that when you’re surrounded by 10,000 people who want the same thing you do: to cure the people you love. And how can you still not believe it, when your family and friends are there to support you helping them?

You believe. And you feel big in this fight against Parkinson’s.


2 thoughts on “United we stand against Parkinson’s

  1. It is so important that each of us reach out to those we meet who do feel they are alone in their battle with Parkinson’s… whether it’s because they are newbies, live in geographically isolated regions, or are trying to keep their illness a secret from their employers. No one should have to go this alone.

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