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While many of his classmates look forward to a summer of sports, adventure, and a life without school, six-year-old Findlay Chaplin raises money for Parkinson's research.
Make no mistake, this senior kindergartener's passion for soccer, karate, and hockey is palpable. However, without his "Papa" by his side, none of these activities mean nearly as much.
That's because Findlay's grandfather, Robert Tubby, has Parkinson's disease, a neurodegenerative disease, often associated with slowness of movement, muscular rigidity, tremors, and sometimes cognitive decline, that affects more than 100,000 Canadians.
After experiencing the common symptoms associated with the disease in 2009, Robert – or Bob to his friends and family – was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 2011.
"I started noticing tremors in my one arm alongside feelings of anxiety," says the retired landscaping business owner. "The tremors have since slowed, but I knew something was off. It was all entirely new territory for me."
Although Findlay was born after his grandfather's diagnosis – and is still not fully aware of the complications associated with Parkinson's – he has rallied around his beloved "Papa."
Instead of receiving birthday gifts this year – a coveted windfall for any six-year-old – Findlay encouraged his friends to provide donations to the Morton and Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Clinic and the Krembil Research Institute at Toronto Western Hospital. Findlay also ran a lemonade stand with all proceeds directed to Parkinson's research efforts at Krembil.
When asked about the motivation behind his donation, Findlay simply responded he, "wanted to help Papa."
Parkinson's disease is a chronic and degenerative disease, which means no cure currently exists. Robert's doctor, Dr. Renato Munhoz, is a neurologist at the movement disorders clinic and a clinical investigator at Krembil. His research focuses on developing new techniques for Parkinson's treatment.
"As the disease progresses, patients require greater assistance and new forms of treatment. Because of the current state of research, patients dealing with Parkinson's require constant care and assistance," he says.
Dr. Munhoz notes that, like many other conditions, the responsibility tends to fall on the family to become the primary caregiver for individuals living with the disease.
Although Findlay is young, he unknowingly plays a significant role in his grandfather's life already. Together, the duo shares an incredibly special bond.
They regularly go bird watching, take nature walks, swim in Robert's pool and spend memorable summers at the family cottage in Gravenhurst, Ont.
As is the case with many other families living with Parkinson's, the activities both Robert and Findlay love have become more difficult as the symptoms progress.
However, Robert says, "I feel more physically able because of Findlay. There is nothing different, just a grandfather and a grandson."
When it comes to his grandfather, Findlay does not hesitate to help.
"We are incredibly proud of Findlay," says his mother Shannon Chaplin. "To a six-year-old boy, $250 may as well be $1-million. But when he donated, he was happy and felt it was an easy thing to do."
Findlay's donation will support research studies while also providing resources for innovative equipment and the development of new techniques at Krembil.
"Research demands funding and research demands minds," says Dr. Munhoz. "This disease tends to respond to therapy over time, which means standard treatments are not as effective as the disease progresses.
"We are slowly moving in the direction of a cure, but we need to develop sophisticated techniques that include molecular interventions, cell therapy and neuromodulation procedures."
Findlay, Robert and the rest of the Chaplin and Tubby families are not sure what the future holds. But they do hope that Findlay's act of kindness will inspire other children and families to donate as well.
"Kids are little, but they are not too young to make a positive impact—look at Findlay," says Shannon. "If he can raise money, maybe others can too."