Message from the Editor

In this issue, we celebrate people who are doing extraordinary things individually and collectively to make a difference in the lives of people with Parkinson’s:

  • Bob Kuhn, one of our Canadian Ambassadors to World Parkinson Congress 2013, who embarked on a round the world trip in May, to promote the Congress and to learn how people deal with Parkinson’s in other countries;
  • University student Cory Welsh who set out in June to ride across Canada on his Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope, with the goals of engaging more people in conversations about Parkinson’s and raising $50,000 for Parkinson’s research;
  • Isabel Ward, a long-time Parkinson Society Southwestern Ontario volunteer who received this year’s National Volunteer Award for her dedication, commitment and leadership in the fight against Parkinson’s;
  • The thousands of participants – walkers, volunteers and donors – coast to coast who joined forces in the annual Parkinson SuperWalk earlier this month, raising $3.0 million;
  • The newly-funded Parkinson Society Canada researchers whose progress in the scientific realm is contributing to advanced knowledge, improved treatments and a better quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s.

These everyday heroes have done much to get our nation moving, mobilizing others to seek answers, to do more, to contribute more, to challenge assumptions and to create more awareness. We invite everyone to get moving, to be inspired by these stories.

As always, your comments are welcome. Feel free to leave a comment. Your feedback will make this publication better. Don’t forget to pass along the link to someone you know so that they may enjoy it too.

Marjie Zacks

Coast to Coast Support for Parkinson SuperWalk

From Vancouver to St. John’s, thousands of Canadians showed their support for the 22nd annual Parkinson SuperWalk, the largest fundraiser for Canadians living with Parkinson’s disease. More than 14,000 walkers, volunteers, donors and sponsors helped raise $3.0 million in 95 communities across Canada.

You’re never too young to be a SuperWalk champion. “As soon as I heard about Parkinson SuperWalk, I knew I had to get involved,” 11-year-old Jenna Sigurdson said.

Jenna’s father Blair was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s disease earlier this year.  Managing Parkinson’s takes more than a team of medical specialists. Blair benefits greatly from the information resources, exercise program and friendships he has gained from his regional Parkinson Society, where he co-founded a Young Onset Parkinson’s support group.

Daughter Jenna’s original fundraising goal was $1,000, but she increased it when donations continued pouring in from generous friends and neighbours. By SuperWalk weekend, Jenna had raised more than $11,500.

“When I participate in Parkinson SuperWalk I feel like I am doing something good, helping others and I feel like I’m making my dad proud of me,” Jenna said. “Not only do I want to raise money to help find a cure for my dad, but I also want other people with Parkinson’s to have the same kind of support he has.”

At Parkinson SuperWalk, Jenna proudly walked alongside her father Blair. Also there to cheer on The Young Onsets team, Jenna’s mother Karren, brother Tyler and dog Ruby.

The Sigurdsons were one of many families at this year’s SuperWalk with a canine companion. This year saw the launch of the Pets for Parkinson’s contest. The contest challenged Canadians to show support for the walk by submitting photos of their pets demonstrating enthusiasm for the Parkinson’s cause. Pets for Parkinson’s was a huge success thanks to many Canadians who shared adorable photos of their cats and dogs wearing SuperWalk T-shirts. The contest helped raise awareness about SuperWalk and Parkinson’s disease in Canada.

“For many people, their pet is an integral member of the family, and every year we have a large number of canine companions who attend Parkinson SuperWalk to show their support. We think this is a great way to have some fun and get more pets (and their families) involved in the cause,” said Joyce Gordon, Parkinson Society Canada President and CEO.

Proceeds from Parkinson SuperWalk help fund the valuable educational resources, support services, advocacy efforts and research provided by Parkinson Society Canada regional partners across Canada to individuals and families like the Sigurdsons.

Parkinson Society Canada acknowledges the generosity of Parkinson SuperWalk national sponsors: Teva Canada Innovation, Naturegg and Roots.

Online donations for Parkinson SuperWalk will be accepted until October 2, 2012

Parkinson Society Canada National Research Program, 27 new awards

Parkinson Society Canada, together with its regional partners, is proudly supporting 27 new grant, fellowship and student awards, as of July 1, 2012:

  • 11 Pilot Project grants

(2 funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia and Parkinson Society Ottawa)

  • 2 New Investigator Awards
  • 4 Basic Research Fellowships

(1 funded by Parkinson Society British Columbia)

  • 1 Clinical Movement Disorders Fellowship, in partnership with TEVA Canada Innovation
  • 2 Clinical Research Fellowships
  • 5 Graduate Student Awards

(2 funded by Parkinson Society Saskatchewan and Parkinson Society Ottawa)

  • 1 Psychosocial Doctoral Award, in partnership with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) – Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health & Addiction
  • 1 Psychosocial Research Grant, in partnership with CIHR – Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health & Addiction

These new awards represent a total of $1,559,608 committed to support new research projects in Canada over the next two years.  Including the 15 research awards in their second year, the National Research Program is currently committed to investing $2,021,553 towards research.

2013-2015 research competition now open

Applications are now being accepted in the Graduate Studentship Award, Clinical Research Fellowship and Psychosocial Doctoral Training Award categories of the Parkinson Society Canada National Research Program. For more information, seeRequest for Applications.

Click here for more information on these awards, including project titles and amounts.

Current areas of research focus

Causes of Parkinson’s. Movement is usually controlled partly by a chemical called dopamine, which carries signals between nerve cells in the brain. Parkinson’s motor symptoms appear when a significant proportion of dopamine-producing cells have died gradually. Researchers are investigating the chemical or genetic triggers that start the cell death process in dopamine neurons. Understanding this sequence of events will ultimately enable scientists to develop treatments to stop or prevent the loss of dopamine-producing cells. In the future, this could lead to a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

Complications of Parkinson’s. Researchers are investigating motor and non-motor complications associated with Parkinson’s. The findings can lead to improved treatments and better quality of life for people with the disease.

Cognitive Impairment and Parkinson’s. Researchers are exploring how cognitive deficits affect the Parkinson brain. The more researchers discover about the links between Parkinson’s and cognitive changes, the greater their ability to develop specialized treatments for managing and preventing these symptoms.

Biomarkers. Biomarkers play an important role in determining whether a person has or is likely to develop a disease. Identifying biomarkers to detect the early stages of Parkinson’s would allow people with Parkinson’s to start treatments before significant nerve cell loss occurs and motor symptoms, such as resting tremors, appear. Biomarkers could also be used to spot people at risk of developing Parkinson’s, to improve diagnosis, to measure disease progression and to determine which treatment will work best.

Clinical Fellowships. People with Parkinson’s, regardless of where they live in Canada, deserve consistent, high quality care. Clinical Fellowships enable medical professionals, such as doctors, neurologists or neurosurgeons, to receive specialized training in caring for people with Parkinson’s. This ensures more Canadian medical specialists can provide high quality care to people with Parkinson’s.

Quality of Life. Quality of life research helps empower people with Parkinson’s and their families to live their lives to the fullest, despite the limitations of this disease. The researchers funded in this area come from a variety of health professions – nursing, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, speech language pathology and social work. Their findings can lead to better treatments, improved support services, and advocacy strategies that help policy makers better understand the particular challenges of Parkinson’s disease.

Neuroscientist Kaylena Ehgoetz Martens is using an innovative new tool – virtual reality – to develop rehabilitation strategies to help people with Parkinson’s disease better navigate their environments and reduce their falls, freezing and shuffling. The PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo is determining how people with Parkinson’s perceive their environment and the movements of their own bodies.

“We’re trying to understand how brain dysfunction contributes to the control of walking. Then we want to translate that knowledge into rehab programs to give people with Parkinson’s disease better strategies to move and correctly perceive their environment.”

Cross-Canada bike tour raises money for research

Cory Welsh is cycling across Canada to raise awareness of Parkinson’s and money for research
Cory Welsh is cycling across Canada to raise awareness of Parkinson’s and money for research

Cory Welsh, 24, of Sarnia, Ontario received a warm reception and considerable media attention as he cycled across Canada to meet people with Parkinson’s, raise awareness of the disease and raise money for Parkinson Society Canada’s National Research Program.

The journey, honouring Cory’s father who has Parkinson’s, kicked off in Vancouver on June 26th and ended in Halifax on September 3rd.

You can contribute to Cory’s efforts by donating online at his Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope webpage,

Read more about Cory Welsh and the Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope.

Donald Calne Lecture

The prestigious 9th Donald Calne Lecture for members of the Parkinson’s community, including scientists, takes place at Terminal City Club, Vancouver, BC, on the evening of Thursday, October, 18, 2012. The presenter is Dr. Matthew Farrer, Professor in the Department of Medical Genetics and Director of the Centre for Applied Neurogenetics in the Brain Research Centre at University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, BC. His topic is Parkinson’s progress: from molecular genetics to medications. Space is limited to 200 guests. Register now to avoid disappointment.

The Donald Calne Lecture is generously sponsored this year by Abbott Laboratories, Limited.

Please rsvp by Thursday, October 11, 2012 to:

Parkinson Society British Columbia
Tel: (604) 662-3240 or 1-800-668-3330

For more information about Dr. Matthew Farrer, his work, and the Donald Calne Lectureship, see The 9th Donald Calne Lectureship awarded to Dr. Matthew Farrer.