If you’re like Ben Smith, Calgary’s SuperWalk Volunteer Event Coordinator, when you receive a Parkinson’s diagnosis, you get motivated to make a difference in the Parkinson’s community. Ben knows his story isn’t unique, and that’s what drives him to work with Parkinson Canada to make Calgary’s SuperWalk a fundraising success and a day of impact for all those who participate.
From the beginning
After experiencing a tremor in his hand for ten months, Ben saw a general practitioner who, after expressing shock at seeing a young man with a tremor like Ben’s, referred Ben to a neurologist who initially misdiagnosed Ben with Essential Tremor and then finally diagnosed Early Onset Parkinson’s in August 2019.
“Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s was a turning point in my life. I’m so young, you know?” Says Ben. When Ben asked his neurologist the obvious next question, “Well, what now?” She said, “Now we wait for you to see a Movement Disorder Specialist – about a year’s wait.”
Ben hit the ground running in seeking out organizations such as Parkinson Canada for reputable information. “I needed to know more, so I started reaching out to organizations to learn about Parkinson’s. And then, I wanted to take action.”
He stumbled upon the nation-wide Parkinson’s SuperWalk with just one month before the event. With no time to spare, he and his family registered their team and began fundraising. “We started connecting with everyone we possibly could! We managed to get about $5000 in that short time,” says Ben.
“We pledged to do it every year after that”
The following year, in person SuperWalk’s were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “There was still the virtual SuperWalk, but we wanted to do more. So, I got creative.”
Ben created his own campaign and sold push-ups to raise money for Parkinson’s. At $25 dollars a push-up, Ben raised $5,600 dollars, completed 225 push-ups and posted the recording of his physical feat on Facebook to show his supporters that he held up his end of the deal.
The 2021 SuperWalk, much like 2020, was kept virtual to ensure safe social distancing for everyone who wanted to participate. Ben wanted to keep the momentum of his three-year pledge going and decided to commit to working out every day from July until SuperWalk’s date in September. In doing so, he raised closer to $7000. Not only did this challenge bring in more money than any previous year for Ben, but he felt the positive effects of physical activity in his life.
The year Ben became a Volunteer Event Coordinator
In early 2022, the Parkinson Canada team approached Ben about the opportunity to coordinate Calgary’s SuperWalk, as his motivation and creativity in the previous years were recognized and applauded by the organization.
“As a Heavy-duty Equipment Technician by trade, event planning is not my forte,” says Ben.
He had no specific event coordination experience or training but felt comfortable taking on the role as he saw a great opportunity to raise even more money knowing he had cultivated three years of dedicated supporters already.
“Parkinson Canada was quite supportive in helping me coordinate the walk.” says Ben. “They provided all the tools I needed.”
While Parkinson Canada recommends event coordinators spend about five hours per month on their event planning tasks, Ben shares, “Your event will be what you make it. I wanted the Calgary walk to have its best year yet, especially being an in-person walk after the last two years of virtual walks. So I spent a lot more time than that.”
In the time Ben dedicated to the walk he was coordinating, he was able to move the location of the walk to a free venue with that more appropriately served the needs of people living with Parkinson’s, as well as secured multiple corporate sponsors for the event.
Thanks to his efforts, the Calgary walk generated over $25,000!
“The day of the event had an awesome turnout and I think everyone had a great time,” says Ben, modestly.
He found support unlike anything he expected
Ben’s nature had him prioritizing taking action and fundraising for Parkinson’s over seeking out personal support groups. He felt strongly that staying positive and engaged in efforts to propel forward research and advocacy efforts was more likely to help him in the long run.
With that disposition, Ben expressed that his eyes were opened by the comradery he experienced at the event. For the first time, Ben was meeting people living with Parkinson’s all with their own stories as personal as his own.
“Meeting people and seeing the Parkinson’s community opened my eyes to all the others living with Parkinson’s, says Ben. “Sometimes it’s hard to see beyond yourself. And this event helped me see others and meet others. It makes you not feel so alone and gives you a sense of a greater purpose.”
Parkinson Canada is grateful for Volunteer Event Coordinators like Ben who bring SuperWalks to communities across Canada.
Interested in volunteering to help with an event, check in on our volunteer opportunities!