For soon to be graduates, the final year of university can be hectic. There are essays to write, and exams to study for as well as internships. Sarnia resident Cory Welsh, 23, added another task to the mix. In addition to wrapping up a Bachelor of Psychology and Bachelor of Education degree from the University of Windsor and completing an Early Childhood Education diploma from St. Clair College, Cory spent his final year of university planning a cross-country cycling tour to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s disease.
Between classes, coursework and internships, Cory spent every moment of his free time planning the trip, which required learning about fundraising, media relations, the science of cycling and how to approach potential sponsors. It meant hundreds of emails and phone calls. He bought a device that turned his road bike into a stationary bike so he could cycle for an hour before and an hour after class. In the eight months leading up to the trip, Cory was on his bike three hours every day.
All of the hard work was worth it. On June 26th, Cory kicked off the Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope in Vancouver. Since then, he has spent between three to five hours each day on his bike, cycling about 118 km per day. He’s already cycled through British Columbia to Alberta. He’s aiming to reach Halifax in early September. Proceeds from the Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope will support Parkinson Society Canada’s National Research Program, and also will help fund programs and services in each province from where a donation is received.
We caught up with Cory as he reached Calgary. And we chatted with the Parkinson’s advocate about his journey so far, what he hopes to achieve and what’s he’s learned.
What inspired you to launch Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope?
My dad, Robert Welsh, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2007. He’s fortunate. It’s a pretty slow progression for him but it also has its hardships. My dad had to retire early and he really enjoyed his work and his colleagues. He’s always fatigued, that’s the worst part for him.
My dad believes there will be a cure one day and that hope keeps him positive. I wanted to help keep him positive. So I launched the Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s and to help bring us closer to a cure.
What do you hope Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope achieves?
I want to create a place online where people can see that Parkinson’s is about more than someone shaking. In as many places as possible, we’re staying with people who have Parkinson’s. I write about their experiences in my blog. And I hope my blog creates this community where people can connect.
And then there’s the fundraising goal. We’ve raised over $32,000. We’re hoping to reach $50,000.
How does your dad feel about the Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope?
I think he’s touched by how much money we’ve raised so far, especially in our hometown. To see so many people there come out and donate, it was very touching for him.
What has been the toughest part of the bike ride?
The hardest day was from Revelstoke to Golden, BC. It was 150 km and it was all uphill. I biked for 7.5 hours. It wasn’t just the climb that was challenging. Staying hydrated with nutrients was also tough. I’m so thankful Elyse is here. [Elyse Parris is driving the support van that contains food, water, clothing, camping gear and bike repair supplies.]
What’s been the most memorable experience so far?
At a car wash fundraiser, a woman came up to me and donated $1,000. She emailed me later that day and told me she had recently been diagnosed with Parkinson’s and she was having difficulty accepting her diagnosis. She told me she was so thankful that I was doing this bike ride to raise awareness and that I was helping her tell her family about the diagnosis.
What’s one thing you’ve learned through this journey?
At one of the places we stayed, the wife had Parkinson’s disease. And her husband said to me, “Everyone is going to deal with their diagnosis in a different way and you have to respect that and be there to support them. Because what might work for you isn’t necessarily going to work for someone else.”
Cory and his family invite you to donate online to the Parkinson’s Cycle of Hope, via the event webpage.
Or send cheques by mail to: Parkinson’s Cycle Of Hope 1421 Egmond Dr. Sarnia, ON N7V 3H3