‘500 Miles for Parkinson’s:’ NYC man walking to Toronto makes stop in Watertown

He would walk 500 miles, and he would walk 500 more, just to be the man who raised awareness for Parkinson’s disease.

He, in this case, is Harry McMurtry, a 54-year-old New York City resident living with Parkinson’s. On May 7, Mr. McMurtry began a 500-mile walk to his hometown of Toronto to raise awareness and money for research.

On Sunday, he gathered with city officials and local supporters under the Butler Pavilion for a brief welcome ceremony in the J.B. Wise Parking Lot.

“I am pumped to have Harry and his crew here in Watertown,” City Councilman Mark C. Walczyk said. “I love following on the website and watching you make progress every day. It is an awesome inspiration, not only for those with Parkinson’s disease, but any human out there should be inspired by this story.”

Mr. Walczyk was joined in his welcoming remarks by Mayor Joseph M. Butler Jr., fellow Councilman Cody J. Horbacz and officials from Samaritan Medical Center.

“On behalf of the city of Watertown and the City Council, I just want to welcome you all to Watertown,” Mayor Butler said. “I’m happy and elated that we could be a part of your journey.”

Mr. McMurtry, who travels with a group of family, friends and supporters, said the first half of his journey has been nothing short of amazing.

“I’m a resident of New York City, but I can never get over how beautiful the rest of New York state is,” he said. “It’s amazing how many people you meet that have a common connection to the disease.”

He said he first thought of the idea about a year and a half ago while walking through Central Park and shortly after began a rigorous training, walking more than 1,000 miles to get in shape.

He chose Toronto as his final destination not only because it is his hometown, but also because it allows him to spread his message internationally.

“Parkinson’s is a borderless disease, so I thought, ‘Why not get both countries involved?’” Mr. McMurtry said. “I’m excited to get to Canada, but we’re going to miss New York.”

Mr. McMurtry said he has been to Watertown several times before; he played in college basketball games against Jefferson Community College while attending Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.

To help with awareness, Mr. McMurtry has gained the support of several celebrity sponsors, including ice hockey legend Wayne Gretzky and Canadian rock musician Tom Cochrane.

He said he plans to stay in Watertown through Saturday before continuing on the next 200 miles of his journey. Mr. McMurtry and his band of supporters expect to arrive in Toronto around June 20.

To follow the “500 Miles for Parkinson’s” journey, or to make a donation, visit www.fivehundredmiles.org.

By Eli Anderson, Watertown Daily Times