When I ask whether the fundraising event will go ahead if it’s raining, the reply comes with a wry smile.
“People with Motor Neurone Disease don’t get to choose which day they have the disease,” Tanya Gilchrist explains. “So we will walk, rain or shine.”
It’s a topic that’s close to the heart of this Omokoroa business woman and mother-of-three. Tanya has known at least a dozen people who’ve suffered from the muscle-wasting disease. One was her grandmother, who was diagnosed when Tanya was 12 years old.
“I remember we were playing Canasta when suddenly the arm she was leaning on gave way. I’ll never forget the look on her face. I knew something really serious was going on.”
Motor Neurone Disease causes the muscles that enable us to move, speak, swallow and breathe to gradually stop working. Every week, another two people are diagnosed.
The progressive disease robbed Tanya’s beloved nana of movement and speech before it took her life.
“That was the hardest thing to watch,” she says. “Losing the ability to communicate was huge. She had always used her hands, but gradually she couldn’t bake, knit or play cards with us. We could see the sparkle in her eyes but she was stuck inside a body that no longer worked.”
As an active member of the local support network, Tanya still gets calls from people who’ve been newly diagnosed with MND.
“They’re desperate. They’re confused. They don’t know what to tell their children. Many people are diagnosed in middle age, so it’s not just affecting them. It leaves partners having to be carers and then solo parents. The trauma lasts for years.”
That’s why half of the money raised by the Walk 2 D’Feet MND goes to supporting families affected by MND.
“They need help now,” says Tanya. “There is no cure for MND. These families just need to know that they have the support to get through. The fundraiser is about giving them hope.”
Walks 2 D’Feet MND are being held all over the country as the main annual fundraiser for MND New Zealand. Last year, the people of Tauranga raised more than $2500, with half going towards research and the rest helping support people with MND and their families. About 320 New Zealand families are affected, with 18 of those in the Bay of Plenty DHB area.
Walks 2 D’Feet MND will be held – come rain or shine - on Sunday, November 12 from 9.30am at Fergusson Park. There’s a 3k or a 5k option. To register go to: www.mnda.org.nz/walk