Life can take unexpected turns. For Marie Donnelly, a lively and active retired teacher from Ottawa, the sudden onset of strange symptoms marked the start of one such turn. Around 2017, Marie began experiencing a shake in her right hand and weakness on the right side of her body. As a substitute teacher in the classroom, her students noticed her slowed movements and involuntary jerks in her hand while writing on the board. Her right arm wouldn’t even swing or move when cross-country skiing or hiking. It was evident that something was seriously wrong, and Marie embarked on a series of tests and consultations to unravel the mystery. After numerous medical examinations, Marie finally met with a neurologist. In just 15 minutes, the doctor delivered a diagnosis that left Marie stunned – Parkinson’s disease.
The news was overwhelming, but Marie decided to face the challenge head-on, determined to preserve her active lifestyle and find ways to contribute to the Parkinson’s community. She reached out to Parkinson Canada the very next day for more information. In Marie’s own words, “Parkinson Canada was so supportive, helpful, and made me feel so much better. They provided much more information and resources than even the doctors.”
During her search for information and support, Marie discovered the Growling Beaver Brevet – an extraordinary social bike ride designed to raise awareness and funds for Parkinson’s. As an avid gravel bike rider with her husband, Growling Beaver seemed like a natural fit. Marie embarked on a mission to share her story and raise funds through a personalized fundraising web page.
Initially, Marie felt a bit anxious about asking people for money, and she set a modest goal of $500. The response she received was overwhelming. People were genuinely interested in her story and eager to support the cause. To her astonishment, Marie not only achieved her initial goal but exceeded it, raising an incredible $5000. The overwhelming support and generosity of those around her were remarkable. Gathering a team of friends and family, including her husband and youngest daughter, Marie created a team called “Move it or lose it” to ride together on the day of the event. She and her daughter rode the 100km distance, while her husband tried his hand at the 200km event.
The atmosphere was electric, filled with enthusiasm and warmth. Volunteers dotted the course, offering assistance and encouragement, but also delicious food, both homemade and provided by local eateries. It was a challenging ride, but one that brought focus, training, and an overwhelming sense of achievement. One of the remarkable aspects of the Growling Beaver Brevet is the sense of belonging it creates. Everyone involved in the event, from fellow participants to the co-founder himself, Evan Siddall, who also lives with Parkinson’s, made Marie feel like a cherished member of a close-knit family.
The following day, Marie had the opportunity to attend a special breakfast for top donors. The event featured experts in the field and inspiring speakers from Parkinson Canada, adding another layer of education and inspiration to an already impactful experience. The gathering served as a reminder of the significance of Marie’s contribution and fueled her determination to continue participating in future Growling Beaver events. In the end, Marie had this to say, “Participating in the Growling Beaver helps me to stay positive, healthy, strong and focused on what’s important in life and to rise to the challenges of living well with Parkinson’s disease.”
Mark your calendars and prepare your bikes, for the Growling Beaver Brevet awaits, ready to welcome you into its extended family of compassionate individuals who strive to conquer challenges, raise awareness, and transform lives.