This Trio Walked 800 Kilometres for Parkinson’s Awareness

This Trio Walked 800 Kilometres for Parkinson’s Awareness

If you think your commute’s a long one, it’s nothing compared to Harry McMurtry’s journey on Monday.

The 54-year-old didn’t walk to his New York home from work this time around, but continued all the way to Canada, finishing his 800-kilometre trip in Toronto. He took on the challenge to raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease, an ailment he’s been living with since 2005.

McMurtry felt it was the best way to raise awareness for the debilitating disease. His long walk did gain traction, garnering support from Canadian celebrities like Wayne Gretzky and Tom Cochrane.

“We’ve encouraged people to come out of the shadows,” McMurtry said.

Much like Forrest Gump who picked up a posy on his cross-country run, McMurtry was followed every step of the way by fellow Torontonian Sue Thompson and Baltimore native Ross Sugar, who both have Parkinson’s.

The progressive, neurodegenerative disease has no permanent cure, with symptoms that affects muscles and their interaction with the nervous system. McMurtry wanted to make a statement: having a disability doesn’t stop him from living a regular, fulfilling life.

“There is a stigma attached to having a disability — you talk funny, you look funny, you walk funny,” McMurtry said.

“We want to show people that they don’t have to stay in the shadows. Come out and lead fulfilling lives, like we do.”

Though McMurtry is based in New York, he’s connected to Toronto; he’s the son of ex-Ontario chief justice Roy McMurtry. He hoped his walk would unite the cities, and countries, to combat Parkinson’s together.

“Parkinson’s knows no borders,” he said. “I came to this idea of walking because it’s one of the activities I can still do well, so I thought, ‘Why don’t I walk from New York to Toronto?’”

At the end of the walk, McMurtry was greeted by a welcoming committee consisting of Mayor John Tory, current Premier Kathleen Wynne, former Premier Bill Davis, and McMurtry Sr. The trio gathered with the dignitaries at Osgoode Hall, with McMurtry thrilled that his was goal complete.

“You never know your limits until you test them,” he said. “I feel like I tested my limits and I came out on top of the disease.”

These are the statistics from McMurtry’s walk for Parkinson’s awareness:

  • He began his journey on May 6
  • The threesome walked up to 24km a day, for 45 days
  • Starting from the Bronx, the trio reached the Canadian border in June
  • The goal of 500 Miles for Parkinson’s was to raise $500,000 towards researching the disease. Donations can be sent to the event’s webpage, fivehundredmiles.org, with proceeds divided amongst three foundations

The event ends today with a party at 7 p.m. at Steam Whistle Roundhouse in Toronto.

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