On the move at Superwalk

The symptoms began with a loss of fine motor skills and difficulty getting out of bed or up from his favourite chair.

Then Susan Smart noticed her husband Jim's arms hung stiff at his side while he walked. His gait had noticeably changed.

"The shake wasn't as typical as other people had it," said Smart.

So Smart turned to a friend whose wife has Parkinson's. It turned out the symptoms were the same.

"We thought, 'Holy crap. That's what it is.' Then we got an appointment with a neurologist," she said.

That was in July. On Saturday, she and Jim took part in their first Parkinson's Superwalk in Riverside Park as a show of solidarity for others afflicted with the disease.

She said Jim's condition is already improving. Once diagnosed, he began taking medication to mask the symptoms. He also returned to the gym for the first time in years, taking up a regime of cardio and weight training.

"The Parkinson's drugs make a big difference," she said. "The gym almost makes as much of a difference as the drugs."

Her advice to others? Once you notice the symptoms, act on them.

Organizer Rendy Olthuis said exercise is a big benefit to people with Parkinson's, which is why the Superwalk is a leisurely stroll through Riverside Park.

Not only does it get people moving, but it also creates a sense of community among those with Parkinson's and their families, she said.

"People can become isolated," said Olthuis, who also was diagnosed with Parkinson's.

Olthius expected about 200 people would attend, and hoped to match last year's total of $37,000 in funds raised in support of Parkinson's B.C. The money is used for research and to help local groups host seminars and education sessions.

This year's walk is in memory of Don Marriott, the Kamloops Parkinson's Awareness Group's treasurer and Olthuis's friend.

"He was our treasurer and a treasured person," she said.

Emmalie Louwerse walked in memory of her grandfather, who died six years ago. She lived in Ontario at the time and now takes classes at Thompson Rivers University.

She took part in Parkinson's walks back home, and was glad there's a similar event in Kamloops.

"It's nice," she said.

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