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'Gave me so much hope': Parkinson's SuperWalk returns to Newmarket

Shortly after her husband was diagnosed, Katherine Viegas was inspired to step up to volunteer for the Saturday, Sept. 9 fundraising event at Fairy Lake after meeting a family that gave her hope for the future
Last year's Parkinson's SuperWalk in Newmarket was Katherine Viegas' first. She's hoping to have an even bigger turnout this year as the volunteer event co-ordinator.

When Katherine Viegas’ husband Tony did not seem like himself, she asked him to go see a doctor.

He was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s Disease at 49 years old, which led Viegas to do research to see how she could help.

“We’re a young family with a young son, and I felt I needed to get involved to better the future for my husband and our family,” said Viegas. “I found the Parkinson’s SuperWalk and we went last year to the one in Newmarket.”

While participating in the walk, Viegas met a family who helped her get a better understanding of Parkinson’s and how a family can still thrive despite the diagnosis.

“They gave me so much advice and support that I really needed,” she said. “I walked away thinking there’s a bright future for all of us.”

That experience motivated Viegas to get involved in the run as a volunteer. After reaching out to Parkinson’s Canada, she was made the volunteer event co-ordinator for the SuperWalk in Newmarket this year. 

The walk is set to take place Saturday, Sept. 9 at Fairy Lake, and Viegas hopes it will serve as an opportunity to educate about Parkinson’s and encourage the community to routinely go to the doctor.

“There’s no actual way to tell you have it without going to the doctor,” said Viegas. “I noticed in my husband his personality changed and he wasn’t engaging as much and was taking longer with paperwork for work. I just knew something had to be wrong. After a physical and an appointment with a neurologist, Tony was diagnosed.”

Without having much knowledge about Parkinson’s, Viegas wasn’t sure what to expect or how it would impact her husband, that’s why she believes the walk is so important. 

“I thought it was just a movement thing, but it’s affecting his personality and it’s affecting him at work,” she said. “He’s more tired and his body is aching. These were things we just weren’t aware of and because the Parkinson’s walk was small in Newmarket last year, I figured nobody really knows about this at all.”

Viegas feared that had she not got her husband to go to the doctor and had he not got on medication as quickly as he did, his Parkinson’s would have progressed faster. She wants to use the walk to ensure that doesn’t happen to anybody.

“Right now, he still works full-time construction and he’s stabilized on medication,” she said. “If I tell people he has Parkinson’s, they can’t tell because the medication has been helping him so much. But had it progressed longer, it would have gotten worse faster."

At this year’s walk in Newmarket, Viegas is hopeful more people will come out and show support. Thirty communities across Canada will be participating in the walk this year with a goal of raising $1.26 million.

“Funds are always amazing because we can give to science and learn more, but for me the awareness and support are the biggest thing,” she said. “The family I met last year gave me the most memorable moments just on a little walk. They gave me so much hope and inspiration. I want that for other families at the walk this year.”

Viegas said she’ll have an information table at the walk this year for the community to learn about support groups. She also said she’s going to have a chiropractor come and is hoping to have a yoga studio involved.

“I want to have all the information there, so if people are shy they still have the ability to get the information and learn,” said Viegas. “Along my journey through planning it I’ve met so many people who have someone in their life with Parkinson’s and they didn’t know how it would affect them. The awareness and education about it is so important.”

You can learn more about the Parkinson Canada SuperWalk here.