An 11-year-old Fife schoolboy who was inspired to climb a mountain after his mother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s will tomorrow visit the University of Dundee to witness the leading-edge research his efforts are helping to fund.
Andrew Hornyak set himself a target of raising £300 to help Parkinson’s sufferers after his mother Lynda told him she had the disease. After deciding to ‘bag’ a Munro in order to raise money he set up a JustGiving page and was almost immediately inundated with pledges of support.
By the time Andrew had climbed Ben Chonzie near Crieff on April 26th, he had exceeded his target by more than 700 per cent, raising a total of £2200 for the Parkinson’s UK charity. Andrew will visit the University on Wednesday, 26th June, to meet with scientists from the MRC Protein Phosphorylation and Ubiquitylation Unit, who are carrying out research that may one day lead to a cure for Parkinson’s.
He will be accompanied by Lynda, his sister Rebecca (18) and grandfather Robert Clark, who also suffers from the disease, for the Parkinson’s Open Day event, which is taking place as part of the celebrations to mark the 100th anniversary of the Medical Research Council (MRC).
Held jointly by the MRC and Parkinson's UK, it will allow patients and families to hear about the exciting research being undertaken in Dundee followed by a tour of the research facilities. Scientists will thank Andrew for his efforts ahead of him presenting Parkinson’s UK with a cheque for the money he raised.
“I’m hoping to help all people with Parkinson’s so that they can just go to the doctor to get medicine that makes them better right away,” said Andrew, who climbed the Munro along with five friends from Strathmiglo Primary School and adult instructors.
“Originally I set myself a goal of £300 because that was 10 per cent of the 3000ft I walked up. It was the first Munro I walked and we helped each other make it to the top where I slid on snow like Superman and touched the clouds. I was delighted to raise so much money. It was a really big surprise when I came home and saw how much people had given.”
Lynda said she was proud of Andrew’s efforts and for him taking the time to learn more about Parkinson’s.
“Andrew said he wanted to help me get better and we began to think about how best for him to do this,” she said. “When the opportunity came to participate in this challenge to climb a Munro, it seemed the perfect idea.
“Word spread through friends, family and friends of friends and the most incredible donations came flooding in with very personal words of encouragement which were much appreciated.
“The majority of people did not know the connection between me and Parkinson's. I felt it wasn't necessary, this was about Andrew. This was the best way for him to 'do' something to help, it was helping him too.
“The actual walk was incredible, and he learned valuable life skills that day with the help of the wonderful staff who took them. It was great that he smashed his target because he set up the JustGiving page himself and did all the organising, which was really a great effort from an 11-year-old boy. His sister helped by setting up a Facebook page to let all her friends
“We have had to adjust the way we do some things since my diagnosis, but its pretty much life as normal. We enjoy life and laugh everyday. Every family has challenges, sometimes you have to adjust your pace but it has brought us all closer.
“If there was ever a 'good' time to be diagnosed with an illness it is now. The research and discovery of new drugs is happening everyday and we are delighted to have been invited to attend the event here, hand over his cheque, tour the labs and meet the scientists.”
Dr Miratul Muqit, a Clinician at the MRC-PPU Unit, said “I am delighted to welcome Andrew and his family to our Centenary event so they can see first-hand the research that is funded by Parkinson's UK and the efforts of inspirational young people like him.”
Professor Dario Alessi, Director of the MRC-PPU, added “Understanding the basic mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s is now one of the most important challenges in Biomedicine.
“The MRC Unit in Dundee is currently at the forefront of research in this area and I am hopeful that our research will lead to new ideas for better diagnosis and treatment of this devastating condition. I thank Andrew for his fantastic fundraising efforts that will make a big contribution to research in this area.”