Meet the Fundraisers!
Larry GiffordName: Larry Gifford
Location: Canada
About: I was diagnosed with Parkinson's at age 45. Since my diagnosis in August 2017, I've launched the podcast "When Life Gives You Parkinson's." Since that time I have had the opportunity to talk to a lot of amazing people and to attend my first World Parkinson Congress. One of the things I have learned is that everyone can do something to help raise funds or awareness of Parkinson's. I decided to start this fundraiser because getting a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in the prime of your life is a punch in the gut. The more you can connect with people who understand that you are going through, the easier it is to move forward. I'm committed to help bring more people with YOPD to WPC 2022 because they deserve the chance to share their stories and to build connections in the PD community.

Rebecca Miller Name: Rebecca Miller
Location: United States
About: Two months after I was first diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease at age 39, I had the chance to attend my first World Parkinson Congress in Montreal. I would say it helped save my life - it gave me hope and inspiration to keep going and live my best life with PD.
The conference is truly one of a kind - people with Parkinson's, family, doctors, and researchers all together sharing information, inspiring hope, and ultimately, working toward a cure for this devastating disease. I'm raising money for the World Parkinson Congress to give others with young onset the opportunity to attend. For a person with Parkinson's, this is a life-changing opportunity.
Eli PollardName: Eli Pollard
Location: United States
About: Elizabeth "Eli" Pollard (Executive Director) has been with the World Parkinson Coalition® from its inception in 2004 and helped steer the organization, alongside world renowned Parkinsonologist and WPC founder, Dr. Stanley Fahn. Together they worked to grow WPC Inc. from its sole purpose, of hosting a triennial global Congress on Parkinson's disease, to its more meaningful place in the community today, as a hub for many of the global PD organizations to connect and intersect online, on teleconferences, or in person at the Congresses. Eli is thrilled with the opportunity to meet the members of the community, to help build the WPC Legacy, and to watch as leading researchers, clinicians, people with Parkinson's and others work together to bring us closer to finding the cause(s) of Parkinson's and a cure for the disease.

Sabela AvionName: Sabela Avion
Location: United States
About: YOPD 26 for WPC is important to me because we need a voice at the table. Just think of this, virtually all definitions of Parkinson's
include a reference to "chiefly of later life" (that's from Merriam-Webster). When a person is diagnosed with YOPD, like I was at 38, and starts looking for information, it's easy to feel disconnected and out of place. I think YOPD 26 for WPC is a critical starting point to bridge that gap, and I'm glad I can be a part of it.


Fulvio CapitanioName: Fulvio Capitanio
Location: Spain
About: Fulvio Capitanio (Spain): is an economist and ITC manager. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2007 and retired from his job in 2009. In January of 2008, with a group of PD friends he met over the Internet, he started an online organization called "Unidos contra el Parkinson” (together against Parkinson's disease) at http://portal.unidoscontraelparkinson.com.

In October 2009 Fulvio coordinated the group's Second International Meeting in Spain dedicated to promote the importance of complementary therapies in PD treatment. In March 2010 Unidos contra el Parkinson edited a comic "Through the eyes of a child” to help parents to explain PD to their children, which was translated into 8 languages.

Vicki DillonName: Vicki Dillon
Location: United Kingdom
About: Vicki Dillon was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2007 when she was 35. After her diagnosis she decided she wanted to give back to the community and currently spends her time participating in research and raising awareness regarding YOPD.
Matt EaglesName: Matt Eagles
Location: United Kingdom
About: Why I am fundraising to bring together PARKY PEEPS from around the world to the WPC in Barcelona in 2022:
The world is becoming more and more connected. People are sharing their stories and experiences across the globe and across various platforms such as Facebook , Twitter and Instagram. They are making friends for life. Connecting with these people in real life at conference brings much needed joy and definitely improves our well-being as young people with Parkinson’s. After 44 years with Juvenile Onset-PD I attended my first congress in Japan in June and it literally blew me away meeting people from all over the globe I had only corresponded online with previously.

Travel is becoming easier too with flights to pretty much anywhere on the planet but access to funding to travel is an issue for many people living with YOPD. If we want the full experience at congress we need to invite and enable EVERYONE who wants to attend, CAN indeed attend with no barriers! The parky community is richly diverse and has some wonderful characters lets connect!!

Gaynor EdwardsName: Gaynor Edwards
Location: United Kingdom
About: There are many reasons why those diagnosed with PD at a younger age struggle to get the awareness, support and understanding needed. We believe there is a need to redress the balance and reinvent the image of Young Onset – effectively creating the global brand of YOPD. In this way we hope to erase the public perception that Parkinson’s is exclusively a disease of the elderly and bring younger PwPs together. The WPC itself is a perfect example of how collaboration leads to change.


Richelle FlanaganName: Richelle Flanagan
Location: Ireland
About: 
After being diagnosed with PD, thanks to the Young Parkinsons Ireland group I was able to attend the World Parkinson Congress in Kyoto in Japan in June 2019. As a person with PD and also as a registered Dietitian it opened my eyes to the amazing research and work that is being done around the world to improve the lives of people living with PD, to push for treatments to slow progression and ultimately to find a cure. However, one of the most amazing parts of the congress was meeting so many people with PD from around the world of all ages but in particular people living and coping with young onset PD. I learned so much about how to improve how I live with PD, what services I need to push for and how important advocacy is to raise the need for better services and more research in Ireland. I was also able to share what I learned with my YOPD colleagues and other health professionals. I also have now a YOPD support group directly from attending Kyoto with whom I am in regular contact. When I was asked to fundraise to bring people to the next WPC in Barcelona, I readily agreed as I would be delighted to help someone else have the opportunity I had, the chance to improve my life living with PD and meet wonderful people.

Tim HagueName: Tim Hague
Location: Canada
About: Tim is a retired nurse of 20+ years who devotes his time to professional speaking, writing and as founder of the Parkinson’s wellness centre, U-Turn Parkinson’s. He is the author of the bestselling book Perseverance, has spoken for Tedx and is sought after across North America for his motivational and inspiring topics. After having been diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease at the age of 46 Tim and his son went on to win the first season of the reality television series The Amazing Race Canada. He is an outspoken and effective advocate on behalf of people living with Parkinson’s around the world. Tim first became involved with the World Parkinson Congress in 2013 and remains committed to the WPC believing that ‘the WPC is an outstanding opportunity to bring our community together from across the globe' and begin to ‘erase the public perception that Parkinson’s is exclusively a disease of the elderly’’ (Gaynor Edwards).

Name: Kat Hill
Location: United States
About: Having Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease can be a lonely and isolating experience. I was diagnosed at the age of 48 and found myself searching for a community that seemed to be much older than me. Later that same year, I attended the World Parkinson Congress in Portland, OR and found my people. There were other young women living with and living well with Parkinson’s.  It was life changing. I was determined to find others living with this disease and worked to co-found a young onset support group that meets in a local pub.  I have been blessed to help build a supportive community in my city and have networked with others around the world to break down barriers and advocate for awareness of this disease, one that can strike at any age.  
Christine JeyachandranName: Christine Jeyachandran
Location: Peru
About: Christine Jeyachandran was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease almost 6 years ago at age 37. It started with a slight tremble, weak fingers and lead to left foot dragging and difficulty walking without medication. The first few years flew by and she suddenly realized that she couldn’t raise her arms and this lead her to do something drastic! She lives in Peru where there are no PD classes nor PD physios so she choose a coach she trusted who happened to be her daughters gymnastics coach. Gymnastics has changed her life completely and empowered her physically and mentally. Her video Handstand for Parkinson’s was a finalist at the World Parkinson Congress. She regained range of movement, balance, flexibility, coordination and she's stronger than ever. And the latest update shows how hard it is but she is persevering: Christine's Gymnastics Update. Now she is passionately helping educate PWP and encouraging them to exercise, especially in Peru as they have very limited services and patient education.

Heather KennedyName: Heather Kennedy
Location: United States
About: Heather Kennedy is the founder of Kathleen Kiddo, an advocacy site offering resources and connection through social media. An entertaining speaker known for her unique talks and film presentations about living with Parkinson’s, Heather writes from her home near SF, CA. Since her diagnosis in 2011, she has collaborated with organizations such as the Davis Phinney Foundation, The Cure Parkinson's Trust and the World Parkinson Congress. In 2020, Heather expects to release two books, one on how to approach grief and a vivid collection of short stories.

Andy McDowellName: Andy McDowell
Location: New Zealand
About: Andy McDowell is an award winning marketing consultant, husband and father of two young girls living with early onset Parkinson's Disease.

Diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease in December 2009, aged he wrote a poem "Smaller" for his children - to help them understand what was happening to him. He turned that poem into a short film that went on to win the Grand Prize and People’s Choice Awards at WPC 2013. Andy has had a documentary series made about his battle with Parkinsons and the subsequent DBS surgery undertaken in 2014 and has contributed to Parkinsons NZ, Young Parkinsons Network (UK), Power Through Project (WPC) and speaks publicly about his experience. Whilst no longer working Andy devotes himself to his children, exercise and his blog (www.smaller.co.nz). As he says “Parkinson's may have made me smaller, but I’ve still got a lot to do"

David SangsterName: David Sangster
Location: United Kingdom
About:
Martin TaylorName: Martin Taylor
Location: United Kingdom
About: Martin is a 37 year old Data Analyst from Edinburgh, married to Fiona and with a 3 year old son named Cohen. He was diagnosed with PD in 2014 aged 32 and this is suspected to be a genetic form, caused by a Parkin mutation as was identified by Dr Miratul Muqit at the University of Dundee. SInce diagnosis, Martin has been an active advocate, particularly focused on research.
Omotola ThomasName: Omotola Thomas
Location: United Kingdom
About: Omotola Thomas, MSc presented at the 5th World Parkinson Congress in Kyoto. She established ParkinStand, a blog, after being diagnosed with Parkinson's at the age of 35. She uses ParkinStand as a platform to inform, connect with, and encourage anyone affected by or connected to Parkinson’s disease. For more information about her or the blog, visit www.parkinstand.com.
Rune VetheName: Rune Vethe
Location: Norway
About: Rune Vethe served as an Ambassador for the 5th World Parkinson Congress. He was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2009 and has channeled his professional skills in teaching and physical education into being a Rock Steady Boxing Coach and Parkinson's advocate in Norway.
Prab KuniyilName: Prab Kuniyil
Location: United States
About: Parkinsons Disease (PD) is affecting the younger people more than ever and the number of young onset PD patients (YOPD) has been on the rise in recent times. It is indeed an encouraging fact that there are quite a few support groups addressing the needs of the patients in general and it has been a big relief. However, the needs, aspirations, and concerns of the YOPD are different from the regular PD patients. I remember the early days of my diagnosis (diagnosed at age 34), attending support group meetings have sometimes lead to a depressing experience. For YOPD, quitting the job was unthinkable and never considered an option, the agenda of the meetings caused us worry about the worst that was yet to come. When we wanted to discuss current issues like, how to get support from the colleagues at work, how to plan our life and financials, the emphasis of the meeting was to address topics on how to move around inside the house avoiding falls and so on. Therefore it is apparent that the YOPD needs a different platform to discuss their own issues.

Attending YOPD conferences is very important because it gives an opportunity to educate oneself with the advancements in medicine, treatment options, research, and clinical trials. Further, it is an opportunity to share one’s experiences and feelings with other patients and doctors as well. This is significant because PD diagnosis, by and large, is symptomatic unlike other diseases where a blood test and/or a scan can give conclusive diagnosis of the disease. Moreover, PD symptoms seem to differ between patients, underlining the need to have more careful personalized description of the symptoms and an explanation of how one feels or performs following a therapeutic procedure. Ultimately, this information has to come from the patient himself and it is not sufficient to come to a conclusion based entirely on the doctor’s word. Therefore close discussions between the YOPD is essential to make it more effective and reliable. In this context, sessions like “People Living with PD” in WPC can contribute hugely and have to be supported. We need to intensify efforts to fundraising for the YOPD.
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