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Wayne Gretzky named 500 Miles for Parkinson's honorary patron

Hockey great Wayne Gretzky has been named the honorary patron of the 500 Miles for Parkinson’s fundraiser as the list of supporters — including many from the legal community — continues to grow for the event, says Jim Downs, managing director of MKD International Inc. People Magazine, CBC News

Downs, along with Toronto trusts and estates lawyer Ian Hull, co-founding partner of Hull & Hull LLP, are members of a committee organizing and sponsoring this event, which aims to raise $500,000 for Parkinson’s research. Downs and Hull are also rallying lawyers and law firms to get behind the fundraiser.

More than $250,000 of the goal has been raised so far, says Downs, whose firm MKD provides investigative services to corporations, lawyers, insurance companies, government agencies, financial institutions and individuals across Canada and worldwide.

On May 7, former Toronto lawyer Harry McMurtry, who was diagnosed with the disease more than a decade ago, will leave Manhattan to walk 500 miles to his hometown to raise money for Parkinson’s research. To complete the long journey to Toronto, McMurtry will walk more than 15 miles a day for 45 days to reach his destination.

The walk will be launched during a fundraising gala in Manhattan on May 6, with a wrap-up event at the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto on June 22.

“Both in the United States and here in Canada, more and more people are getting involved with this,” Downs tells AdvocateDaily.com. “There are events planned for Kingston, where Harry worked, and in other communities along the route through New York state and Ontario. There are also schools along the route where Harry will stop to meet children so they can participate in the walk in an effort to raise awareness about the disease.”

Downs says lawyers and their firms have the opportunity to join in the walk on June 20 for its last leg, which will take McMurtry and his supporters along Toronto’s Bay Street, in the heart of the country’s financial district and where many of the large law firms have offices.

“This will give them an opportunity to walk a mile in Harry’s shoes and make a donation for the cause,” says Downs. “We’re expecting some of the firms will donate X amount of dollars to join the walk at that point.”

Hull describes the event as a "truly fantastic cause" that has been gaining a great deal of media attention.

"Harry has been a friend and colleague of mine for many years and I am thrilled to be a part of such a worthy cause," he says. "We have a large and dedicated team of volunteers who have been working on this for months. It will be great to see all of that hard work come to fruition.”

The event has attracted the support of musicians Tom Cochrane and Martha Johnson, TV personality Jeanne Beker, Olympians Adam van Koeverden and Ashley Holzer, as well as radio personality Andy Barrie and McMurtry’s father, Roy McMurtry, former Chief Justice of Ontario and Attorney General of Ontario.

It has also garnered the support of a number of large donors, including Estee Lauder Cosmetic Ltd. (Canada), The Joyce Foundation, Alan C. Greenberg Memorial Fund and others.

Corporations, law firms and individuals can support the event through a combination of sponsorships. People can sponsor McMurtry with a donation for a mile or more of the walk through the "buy a mile" program. People can also support through donations, ticket sales, as well as silent and live auctions.

Those interested can donate or sponsor online.

The proceeds of the fundraiser will benefit three charities: the Michael J. Fox Foundation, the Morton and Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre and the Edmond J. Safra Program in Parkinson’s Disease at Toronto Western Hospital (led by Dr. Tony Lang), and the Mount Sinai Beth Israel Movement Disorders Center in New York (led by Dr. Susan Bressman.)

Downs says the route will be mapped so that people can follow McMurtry’s progress online, as well as regular updates that will be posted on the 500 Miles for Parkinson’s website.

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