As Harry McMurtry recovered from an intensive brain surgery to treat Parkinson’s disease two years ago, he hatched a plan that he shared with longtime friend, Toronto estates and trusts lawyer Ian Hull.
“I was with Harry when he went through a life-changing deep brain surgery at Toronto Western Hospital,” says Hull. “At that time, he said he needed to give back for what was clearly a miraculous operation. He looked at me and said, ‘You know we are going to have to do something really big.’”
The idea has now come to life, with fundraising event Shake It Up for Parkinson’s set for Sept. 6.
McMurtry, a lawyer and chairperson of the event committee, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 11 years ago, says Hull, partner with Hull & Hull LLP. The firm is a platinum sponsor of the event.
“Harry has been one of my closest friends since we were born,” says Hull. “When he was struck with this disease, I wanted to support this cause as best I could both actively and financially.”
The event, featuring a live performance from Tom Cochrane with friends Dala and Marc Jordan, has a goal to raise more than $100,000 for the Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre at the Toronto Western Hospital.
“Harry worked at his busy civil litigation practice as long as he physically could and it wasn't until the disease truly wore him out that he hung up the robes,” says Hull. “He is now advocating for a cure for Parkinson's as strongly as he did for his clients.”
Toronto employment lawyer Doug MacLeod is also a longtime friend of McMurtry’s, and says he understands firsthand how crucial a cure is for the disease.
“My parents also have Parkinson’s,” he says, adding he and McMurtry went to law school together.
“Last year Harry organized a fundraiser for Parkinson's research. It was an intimate affair attended by about 100 of Harry's friends and family,” says MacLeod, whose firm MacLeod Law Firm is a gold sponsor of the event.
“This year Harry decided he wanted to expand the event and raise more money. I was happy to sit on a committee that is reaching out to law firms and corporations to support the event.”
MacLeod says he believes, “devoting more resources to Parkinson's research will result in medical breakthroughs that will improve the quality of life for Parkinson's patients.”
The number of Parkinson's patients is expected to double by 2016, says MacLeod.
“Parkinson's is a degenerative disease. As life expectancy continues to increase, the challenges facing Parkinson's patients and the health care system will increase,” he says.
“I understand a cure for Parkinson's is not far off, relative to other diseases. With additional funding for medical research, I think a cure is within our reach.”
Jim Downs, managing director of private investigative firm MKD International Inc., is another gold sponsor of the event, and says his connection to McMurtry also drove him to get involved.
“Harry has been a longtime dear friend and has sat on our company board for several years,” says Downs. “In addition, my father-in-law and another friend have Parkinson’s, so I have lots of personal reasons to support this important cause.”
Shake It Up for Parkinson’s runs Sept. 6 from 6:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. at the Capitol Event Theatre at 2492 Yonge St. in Toronto.