Once-a-week jogger turned marathon runner in 30 days raises more than $17,000 for Parkinson’s

Photo of Danielle Groenendijk

Starting winter of 2020, Vancouver Island University athlete Danielle Groenendijk set an ambitious goal to run 250km in 30 days – motivated to move by her grandfather’s motor symptoms. Recently, with his symptoms progressing, her grandfather moved into a care facility. With the realities of COVID-19 preventing any in-person visits, Danielle wanted to do something to show support. She launched a webpage to highlight his story and connected that to a Fundraising Your Way page through Parkinson Canada. Literally and figuratively, the campaign took off running.

“My grandpa has always wanted what is best for us and is willing to help us in whatever way we need. When his motor symptoms of Parkinson’s continued to increase it was very frustrating for him as he could not complete tasks he used to do,” she said.

Danielle has always been a runner, but the transition from running once a week to every day for a month was an ambitious commitment as part of her 250km goal. “The idea of running came to me quickly especially because my grandpa’s Parkinson’s was progressing so fast. It was my grandpa’s birthday, so I decided to start on that day.” 

And off she went, exceeding her distance goal and raising more than $17,000 in support of Canadians with Parkinson’s. She flew by her distance and duration goals, all with the motivation of moving for her grandfather. She felt overwhelmed by the outpouring of support in response to her fundraising message.

Photo of Danielle Groenendijk

That’s an experience that many have through participating in “do-it-yourself” events like Danielle’s or through Parkinson Canada SuperWalk. While talking openly about one’s relationship with Parkinson’s can be a challenge, these events often serve as a gateway to share one’s story and feelings as it relates to Parkinson’s – a comfortable way of disclosing these details to the world.  

“Seeing all the support in the different areas of my life from farming, volleyball and school communities was quite something,” Danielle said. “It was great to feel so much support for me personally, and for the cause.”

Inspired by an outpouring of support she did not expect, Danielle felt like she had to do something to acknowledge exceeding her goal by more than $7,000. So, she kept on running. Even non-runners can appreciate that transitioning from a once-a-week jogger to a marathon runner in 30 days is quite a feat. That’s exactly what Danielle did to celebrate her last day. She ran 43 kilometers in 4 hours, with her family by her side. Danielle’s mother biked with her on the journey and her brother and dog joined for portions as well.

Danielle’s final feat reminds us of the resilience that Canadians with Parkinson’s exhibit daily. Completing her run symbolizes the Parkinson’s journey for many. Parkinson’s impacts the whole family, but you are not alone.

Leave a Comment