ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: Kim Petrie
By Meaghan Drury, '12
This spring will mark the 3rd annual Lets Shake Benefit in support of Parkinson’s disease research. This year also marks the 4th anniversary since the event’s creator, Kim Petrie, a 1993 graduate of Mohawk’s Recreation & Leadership program, was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease.
For a few years, Kim had experienced occasional symptoms of the disease, as she clearly recalls one instance when she was watching her son in an Ontario Provincials Hockey game and as it was going into over-time she noticed a tremor in her leg that was “quite substantial,” but she passed it off as stress related or due to the temperature in the cold arena. The tremor returned during a job interview, but again she passed it off to stress. Then, while away on a family vacation, she discovered she was unable to slip her foot in a sandal without using her hands to assist and her leg tremor became more pronounced and consistent.
Obviously concerned, upon her return home, she made a visit to her doctor. It was there she received her diagnosis. He recommended she see a specialist, but was sure all the signs pointed to early onset Parkinson’s. Kim continued through the motions of more tests and follow-ups, but her life was now changed forever. Kim was feeling overwhelmed and concerned about her future so she took some time off work to figure out what to do next, as well as to break the news to her kids.
Although her doctor recommended reading all she could about the disease, she found that comparing herself to others was not helpful and very upsetting as she shares, “I know they say that knowledge is power, [but] sometimes too much knowledge is not good.”
After discussing her feelings with her husband, Jamie, he thought there has to be a “silver-lining” in all of this. Being in a band, Jamie found a connection to music, inspired by Bruce Springsteen and his involvement with “Light of Day,” an annual set of concerts in support of Parkinson’s Research & Care. Since graduating from Mohawk years earlier, Kim had always wanted to be involved with event planning. So combining her interest in event planning and her husband’s passion for music the first Lets Shake benefit was set in motion.
The annual event held in Hamilton, Ontario has seen a strong attendance selling-out in its 2nd year, with notable supporters such as Walter Gretzky and former Hamilton mayor Bob Bratina, whose father suffered from the disease. It has raised approximately $55,000 over the past two years going directly to Dr. Jog and his team at the London Health Sciences Centre, who specializes in Parkinson’s disease research at the Movement Disorders Clinic.
Not only does the event raise funds for Parkinson’s research, but as a woman, Kim uses this platform to change the mindset of people concerning this disease, since Parkinson’s usually affects males and more specifically, older males, she stresses that “it’s a reality that young people are being diagnosed more and more, and to raise the awareness of young onset Parkinson’s is our biggest challenge.” Furthermore, Kim knows there are others out there just like her, “we’re young, we still have kids that we’re raising, we’re still trying to work and we’re still very capable.”