Canadian Champion Trap Shooter Amanda Chudoba, lawyer Darin Slaferek, Brandi Labonte with Parkinson Alberta Society, lawyer Paul Moreau and CEO Of Parkinson Alberta Society John Petryshen, all gathered at the Edmonton Gun Club to shoot for a cure for Parkinson Disease.
With so many worthy causes hosting fundraisers nowadays, it is very difficult to find an original way of raising money to fund research. However, the Parkinson Alberta Society seems to have hit on a very unique way to raise both awareness and funds, in the form of their "Shooting For Parkinson's" event.
On August 25th, approximately 40 long gun enthusiasts gathered at the Edmonton Gun Club located behind the Edmonton International Airport, and blasted away at some clay pigeons all in the name of finding a cure. This was only the second year the shoot had taken place but organizers hope it will turn into an annual event.
"This is a completely new audience for us." shared John Petryshen, CEO of the Parkinson Alberta Society. "We are very excited about this as every nickel and dime raised matters to us."
Despite the fact that a famous actor such as Michael J. Fox suffers from Parkinson Disease, it is not as "high profile" as say, cancer research, so it can make raising money quite difficult. Even though it is the second most common neurodegenerative disease next to Alzheimer's, it is not high on the list for generating donations to find a cure.
"There are approximately 8,000 people in Alberta that suffer from Parkinson's," said John, "and the most common perception is that it is an 'old person's' disease. Unfortunately more and more people in their forties and fifties are now being diagnosed with Parkinson's, and it's not a club that anyone wants to belong to as there is no cure."
There are however, treatments currently available in the form of medications, or in extreme cases deep brain surgeries, but can they only alleviate some of the symptoms, some of the time. A person with Parkinson's can be expected to live a normal lifespan, with the symptoms getting progressively worse over time.
Parkinson's is caused by a degeneration of the cells that produce dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter which sends signals from one nerve cell to another, and when dopamine levels drop, it affects the parts of the brain that control movement. So Parkinson's sufferers typically develop tremors, shaking, stiffening of the arms and legs, and overall slowed movement which can make everyday tasks, such as buttoning a shirt, brushing one's teeth, or feeding yourself, impossible. Because of the lowered dopamine levels, the disease can also affect the moods and thinking processes, as well as control over involuntary movements such as blood pressure and bowel function.
Since Parkinson's is a lifelong degenerative disease, all money raised is split between finding a cure, and easing the burden of families affected by the disease. Some of the core services the Society offers are counseling, support groups, learning resources and speech therapy, to name a few. With an average of $160,000.00/year being raised and split between priorities, this means that there is only an average of $10.00/ family available in financial aid from the Society. Hence, the reason John and his volunteers are so anxious to get the word out about this cause, and why the Shooting For Parkinson's fundraiser is so important.
Even though it is only the second year of this event, two of the organizers and board members for the Parkinson Alberta Society, well known Edmonton lawyers Paul Moreau and Darin Slaferek, said that they are hoping to raise about $1,500.00 with this fundraiser. With a door prize valued at $500.00 donated by Wholesale Sports, plus a steak dinner and silent auction after the shoot, it is no wonder that the event can draw squads from as far away as Hinton and Athabasca, as well as the likes of world class trap shooters such as Amanda Chudoba. In July, Amanda was the Women's Champion at the Canadian International Trapshooting National Championships.
The event drew supporters of all ages, with shooters ranging in age from 12 years old to well over 60. One older gentleman was himself a sufferer of Parkinson Disease.
The Parkinson Alberta Society itself is a relatively new thing as well. Formerly the Society was split in two, with a North and South division in the province. Just over a year ago they decided that to better organize and serve people all across Alberta they should amalgamate into one Society, and now there are five offices spread across the province to assist people with the disease.
With their biggest fundraiser of the year fast approaching, John is hoping to see a lot of local participation in the 2013 Edmonton Parkinson SuperWalk on September 8th. More information on this devastating disease, on the SuperWalk, or how you can get involved and help with this Society can be found on their website at www.parkinsonalberta.ca.