CSU student treks the Great Wall to raise awareness of Parkinson's disease

Before her father’s diagnosis, Claire Smart thought Parkinson’s disease was something old people got.

Two years later, she knows first hand the reality of the indiscriminate disease.

Miss Smart’s father was diagnosed with the disease in 2015, the same year the CSU physiotherapy student begun her studies in Albury-Wodonga. 

“He was diagnosed with Young Onset Parkinson’s,” she said.

“A lot more needs to be done about Young Onset Parkinson’s – it’s not just an old person disease, it’s not just shakes and tremors.

“Some of the lesser known symptoms include loss of smell, reduced voice volume and loss of arm swing when walking.”

Miss Smart is taking her awareness and fundraising message worldwide – by trekking 40km of the Great Wall of China with friend Elizabeth Zoneff.

She said her father was coming on the tour with her, to witness her feat.

“Dad said it gives him heart and hope that people are supporting him,” Miss Smart said.

“If lots of people donate small amounts, there is a greater chance for medical breakthroughs.”

Miss Smart said the idea to raise money for Parkinson’s was an easy one.

“Parkinson’s was close to our hearts and it’s so common we thought it was something everyone could engage with,” she said.

"Thirty-two Australians are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease annually, making it the second most common neurological disease in Australia.

"There's currently no known cure for the condition.”

Miss Smart said the brain was filled with complex transmitters affecting everything from psychology to balance.

“People are getting better at detecting it earlier,” she said. 

“A lot needs to be done to ensure there’s a sense of hope and being proactive from the start.”

Miss Smart said she’s been overwhelmed by the support of family, friends and her adopted Border home, having raised more than $2000 so far.

"Our goal is to raise at least $3000 before we depart Australia and donate it all to the Shake It Up Australia Foundation," Ms Smart said.

Miss Smart said people could donate at Elizabeth’s Huma Trek Great Wall Challenge gofundraise page to support the journey.