Gary is no stranger to difficult and challenging treks, having walked Kokoda, Borneo, (Sandakan Death March), Mt Kinabalu, Annapurna Circuit, Langtang Valley, and Mt Everest Base Camp multiple times. This year, he’s testing himself again with a return to Mt Everest Base Camp, this time with a group of like-minded trekkers. Their aim is to raise $10,000 for Parkinson’s Research and tick off a one-of-a-kind bucket list experience.
What drives your commitment to a cure for Parkinson’s disease?
Every day I know that I will be encountering with people with Parkinson’s Disease, some in the early stages but most in later stages, as the average age is around 65 Years.
These are people with lives, family, experiences, and a desire to live life to its fullest. Sadly some are no longer able to do this. The ones that have embraced their PD as a challenge and not a sentence seem to have better outcomes. They embrace their therapy with enthusiasm, they want to succeed and get back to living life. My role is to encourage and assist them through this process, challenging them a little more each day to go another step further or higher, do another rep or more.
By undertaking #everesttrekforparkinsons, if we can move the research that little bit closer to a cure or a better treatment and identify PD sufferers at an earlier stage, lifestyle changes, dietary changes, maybe we can see an end to this disease in the next generation.
Tell us about your treks to Mt Everest Base Camp?
Several years ago I took a young man to EBC, his grandfather had PD. I saw the passion that he brought with him, although EBC was way outside of his comfort zone, he still persisted and succeeded, as well as raising money for Shake It up.
This will be my fourth trip to Nepal, having trekked Annapurna, EBC and the Langtang Valley, previously, as well as Kokoda and Borneo in past years.
My goal is to raise a conversation about Parkinson’s Disease in the community. I wear a Shake It Up shirt to work on Fridays, sparking conversation and I hold workplace raffles each month, again sparking conversation.
Training consists of hill walks with boots and packs, gym sessions, and swimming.
We will be walking to 5300M at Everest Base Camp and 5500M at Kalapata, which is just opposite EBC. Oxygen levels will be at 35% of what we breathe at sea level, so acclimatisation is critical, slow and steady is our motto.
Challenging certainly, awesome absolutely, amazing memories, you bet, and new lifelong friends from around the globe. We will retire each night knowing that we have done a little bit to help bring an end to PD.
What advice do you have for anyone looking to fundraise for Shake It Up?
Have a plan, set a challenging goal, get others involved, don’t try and do it all yourself.
Start a conversation – you never know where it will end, and you will find everyone has a connection with PD. Have some fun.