Golden man treks for Parkinson’s disease

Duathlon on the Colorado Trail serves as fundraiser, awareness campaign

Posted 7/16/19

The first time Goldenite Rob Harrington was personally introduced to Parkinson’s disease was when the father of his best friend from high school developed it. Harrington remembered thinking about …

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Golden man treks for Parkinson’s disease

Duathlon on the Colorado Trail serves as fundraiser, awareness campaign

Posted

The first time Goldenite Rob Harrington was personally introduced to Parkinson’s disease was when the father of his best friend from high school developed it.

Harrington remembered thinking about how athletic the man was in earlier years, and wanted to learn more about the disease.

Being a cyclist himself, Harrington eventually found the Davis Phinney Foundation — a Louisville-based nonprofit founded by and named after an Olympic Bronze medalist cyclist and Tour de France stage winner.

Later, but about 10 years ago, Harrington’s brother-in-law, Michael Redwine, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

“Learning about my brother-in-law brought it even closer,” Harrington said.

On July 15, Harrington, 56, embarked on a duathlon on the Colorado Trail to raise awareness and to fundraise for two nonprofits focused on improving the quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s.

“I’ve been interested in outdoor activities my whole life,” Harrington said in an interview prior to his departure. And “I’ve always been inspired by others who have taken these big journeys for a cause.”

Harrington expects the trek to last about four weeks and fundraising efforts will continue for the duration. He will do the southbound portion — Denver to Durango, which is about 490 miles with a high point of elevation at 13,271 feet — on foot. The return trip will be on mountain bike, which will total about 550 miles because of bike detours around wilderness areas, Harrington said.

“Right now, it’s a solo journey,” Harrington said, “but I hope it inspires others to join in and spread awareness.”

Harrington added that he would be happy to have people join in on a leg of the hike or bike ride if they want to, and he encourages everybody to check his website to track his progress.

The funds raised from Harrington’s efforts will be split between the Davis Phinney Foundation and the Dance for Parkinson’s program at the University of Oklahoma.

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive and degenerative brain disorder that affects a person’s muscle movement. No cure exists for Parkinson’s disease, but there are ways for people to improve their quality of life.

MORE: Denver-area Parkinson's patients find help with excerise, brain surgery

According to its website, the Davis Phinney Foundation focuses on the quality of life of day-to-day living, and “promote(s) and fund(s) innovative research that demonstrates the effects and importance of exercise, speech and other elements that are critical to quality of life.”

“One of the best ways to slow the progress (of Parkinson’s disease) is through exercise,” said Kathleen Redwine, Harrington’s sister. “Dance is also an art, and the joy of movement and social engagement.”

Kathleen Redwine is a lifelong dancer and an instructor at the University of Oklahoma’s School of Dance. Also being her husband’s caregiver, she started looking into the Dance for PD program, which offers “specialized dance classes to people with Parkinson’s, their families, friends and care partners,” states its website. It was developed in partnership between the Brooklyn Parkinson Group and the Mark Morris Dance Group in the early 2000s. The program is now offered in more than 250 communities worldwide.

Kathleen Redwine implemented the program at the University of Oklahoma only about a year ago and is thrilled with the success it’s had, she said, adding that about 20 people participate in the classes.

The classes are free-of-charge and currently offered once a week. The funds raised from Harrington’s efforts will be used to expand the program to twice a week, Redwine said.

Harrington is a chief technology officer for a startup company that’s based on the east coast. He started training for his duathlon on the Colorado Trail last fall and began more formal coaching for it this past spring.

Harrington said that spending time on the trails and talking with people about the fundraiser duathlon, has shown him how many people are affected by Parkinson’s — whether it be a direct family member or a friend or relative.

“It didn’t occur to me that it is so widespread,” he said. “Knowing that is going to be one of my drivers. That is what will keep me going.”

Harrington’s total fundraising goal is $7,500. On July 9, he had raised $5,000 of that.

“While it is a solo adventure, the fundraiser has to be a group effort. I can’t raise these needed funds without you,” Harrington wrote on his website. “Not only will you be contributing to a great cause, but your support will keep me motivated when I’m tired, hungry and blistered.”

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