Markus Lee, left, holds hands with Evelyn, a fellow Nanaimo youngster, as they join their mothers in the fourth annual Parksville Walk for Arthritis on the Community Park Waterfront Saturday, June 2, 2018. — J.R. Rardon photo

Parksville arthritis walk raises thousands

Fourth annual event draws more than 50 walkers

More than 50 walkers and strollers braved blustery conditions to do their part in the fight against arthritis Saturday in Parksville.

The fourth annual Parksville Walk for Arthritis drew dozens, including a number of current and past arthritis sufferers, to the beach walk at Community Park on a windy morning June 2.

“It seems to be growing each year,” said Denise Cormier, chair of the local organizing committee. “We usually raise about $5,000; I think we’re surpassing it this year.”

The society announced Wednesday (June 6), with counting still underway, the Parksville walk total had surpassed $7,000.

The event included a raffle prize table, refreshments and an information table for the Arthritis Society. The table was staffed by “arthritis ambassador” Tracey Pike, a yoga instructor who also led a pre-walk stretching and warm-up session for participants. Local radio personality Dave Graham served as the MC.

Two-year-old Ezri Jack of Parksville, right, runs to catch up with other participants in the annual Parksville Walk for Arthritis, held at Community Park Saturday, June 2, 2018. — J.R. Rardon photo

The walk was one of 45 held nationwide to benefit the society. In total, the walks drew 8,000 participants and raised more than $1 million, according to a release from the Arthritis Society.

“I believe there were walks in 11 communities in B.C.,” said Cormier. “We’re raising money for awareness, research, advocacy and solutions. One-in-five people across Canada will have arthritis at some point, and it can happen at all ages.”

Pike was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an auto-immune disorder, as a teenager. She drew cheers from the beachfront crowd when she announced Saturday that her disease has been in remission for more than two years.

During the final moments before the countdown to the walk’s start, Pike rushed to attach a red ribbon to the arm of each walker who is or has been affected by arthritis.

The money raised — more than $11 million nationwide since the annual walk was started nine years ago — goes into the general Arthritis Society fund. But Cormier noted local chapters and divisions of the society, including the B.C./Yukon Division, can draw on the funds for special events in their communities.

They include next weekend’s Arthritis Connects Symposium in Nanaimo, set for 1 p.m. on the Vancouver Island University campus.

“This is a large symposium and we’re so fortunate to have it here on the mid-Island,” said Cormier. “This will bring experts, doctors, bring everyone together in one place.”

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