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09 Jul 2015

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Trek to help find a cure

Kavanagh St resident Gary McKitterick-Gillett is preparing to embark on a mammoth 16-day trek across Nepal in order to raise funds and awareness for Parkinson’s disease later this year.

While he prepares for his big challenge, the former Gippsland and Queensland resident is also getting used to the city lifestyle having only moved to Southbank with his wife in September last year.

“The move from country house to apartment took some getting used to,” he said.

“After moving from a four-bedroom house into a two bedroom apartment you learn to just sleep in your apartment and get outside and experience the environment a bit more.”

“Queensland is a little warmer than the suburbs of Melbourne especially at this time of year, but it’s fine. You get used to it.”

The 54-year-old said he had settled into life in Southbank easily after deciding to downsize in order to be closer to his elderly parents, who still reside in Gippsland.  

And in what was both a surprising and refreshing revelation, Gary told Southbank Local News that he could draw plenty of similarities between living in Southbank and living in the country.

“It’s like a little town,” he said. “It’s a bit like growing up in the country everyone sort of knows each other, big wide streets and it’s quite friendly and welcoming so it’s relaxed.”

And it’s that strong sense of community that Gary is hoping to harness in order to support his efforts to raise funds and awareness for two causes, which are very close to his heart.

After finishing his primary services role with Mission Australia last year, Gary told Southbank Local News that he had picked up a passion for trekking, having since embarked on the Kokoda trail on six occasions.  

In November, Gary’s next trek will take him to the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal to raise funds for Parkinson’s disease and directly assist victims of the recent earthquake, which devastated the country.

He said he had experienced some nervous moments in wake of the disaster after losing contact with a friend in Nepal who thankfully, along with his family, were eventually confirmed as being safe.

While the impacts of the earthquake will continue to require a huge international effort, he said local efforts were just as important to help stimulate the local economy.

“The trip will inject some money directly into the local community over there, which I feel is better than just sending money,” he said.

“We’re spending money there through accommodation and employing people, guides, buying souvenirs while we’re over there and that’s probably a better way to help their economy to grow back rather than just by making a donation.”

However, the biggest of objective behind Gary’s trek will be to raise funds to help find a cure for what he described as a “blight of our generation”.

Parkinson’s disease is Australia’s second most common neurological disease and affects more than 100,000 Australians and more than seven million worldwide, according to Parkinson’s Australia.

Gary said he was determined to help find a cure having long witnessed the impacts of the disease firsthand through a close family friend.

“We have a family friend who suffers from Parkinson’s. He’s 60 years old and just to see how bravely he goes about his daily life while obviously suffering but persevering. You never hear a word of complaint,” he said.

“You can be as young as 18 and develop it and I suspect as our population rapidly ages we’ll see a greater increase, which is unfortunate. Hopefully we’ll find a cure nice and quickly.”

Gary called on the Southbank community to rally around his efforts, as he looks to raise as much money as possible.

“I think as we get closer to the travel date that will pick up,” he said. “I’ve got a goal of raising $5000, which I think we’ll achieve and we’ll exceed.”

“Hopefully the more people we can get talking about it then it will happen. We’ll just make it happen.”

To contribute to Gary’s fundraising efforts go to

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