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Running For Parkinson's Research

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I'm not really sure where I got the idea to start a campaign on GoFundMe, but I think it's because one day while running I thought of  a dream and a mission. However, neither can be achieved without some degree of financial assistance.

My name is Stu Sorenson.  At 45, I am the youngest of five siblings  - all born and raised in a factory town in northern Minnesota.  Some might think that our part of North America is synonymous with Canada, but we're actually about 2-1/2 hours south of the Canadian border.

I am a high school English teacher with a wife, two kids and two dogs.  We're a pretty normal American family trying to balance school activities, work , sports and family time.

But enough about us.  A little bit ago I mentioned a dream and a mission.

About six years ago, my father was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease.   Prior to his diagnosis, he was what I would call the quiet patriarch of our family.  He worked hard his whole life to put food on our table - most of the time as the owner of a small real estate business.

Additionally, he was an avid outdoorsman.  From an early age he was traipsing around the fields, streams and lakes and instilled in my two brothers and I - and to some degree my two sisters - a love for the outdoors that we continue to pass down to our children to this day.  

I could spend pages describing all of the times spent afield and the spirit of adventure we all now possess because of him, but frankly that would take far too long. Suffice it to say, I will never be able to repay him for all my positive outdoor childhood memories nor the ones I am currently creating with my own kids.

But he would never accept repayment anyway.  He's that kind of man.  Knowing that his legacy lives on in his grandchildren will always be enough repayment for him, but it's not enough for me.

Which brings me to my dream and my mission.  It's a way I can give back to the man who has given me so much.

Since my dad's diagnosis, I have become aware of two truths:

1. Parkinson's Disease sucks.
2. While it's not hereditary, the chances of contracting it can be reduced by maintaining a healthy lifestyle through regular exercise.

Because of the former truth, I have watched my very active father's health slowly decline over the past six years to the point where he has been in a nursing home for going on almost two years now.  

Because of this, every time my siblings and I share our current experiences with him when we visit, be they hunting trips, fishing trips or his favorite - his grandkids' activities - we see what I've come to term the Glint and the Sorrow.

The Glint shows in his eyes and it comes when he remembers his own experiences in relation to the ones we share with him.  It is pleasant to see the Glint.

The Sorrow comes soon after. It rears it's ugly head when he realizes that he will never be able to relive those memories again - with his kids or his grandkids. It is not pleasant to see the Sorrow.  The Sorrow is why I believe in truth #1.

And the previously mentioned truth #2?  To make a long story short, that one is a bit more clinical and is aligned with information tied to much of what is known regarding Parkinson's Disease to this day.

Remember that dream and mission I've alluded to a few times?  Along with repaying a debt to the man I respect most in this world, they are tied to truth #2.

While I've been involved with sports most of my life, once I started a family, I succumbed to the physical complacency that afflicts so many of us as we approach and travel through the middle-age years.  In short and to put it blatantly - I got a bit weaker and a lot fatter.

Almost two years ago, I decided to make a change.  My oldest brother and a friend of mine had started a new hobby - trail running.  And not just any trail running - ultra trail running. (For the uninitiated, ultramarathons refer to any distance longer than the 26.2 miles of a traditional marathon.)

While I had played various sports throughout my life, I had never run further than a 5k race - 3.1 miles.  So what did I do?  Well, as a way to get myself in better shape and as a small private tribute to my father, I signed up for a trail marathon with zero training.  This was March of 2014 and the race was in July.

Not to bore you with the details, but I made it.  It was an arduous process, was both physically and at times emotionally quite painful...but I made it and in doing so accomplished something I never thought possible.  Since that first race I have become somewhat addicted to this hobby as do most who decide to undertake it.  Since then, I have run several other races ranging from 17 miles to 50k (31 miles).

On December 7 of this year, I started training for my next race - a 50-miler that starts at midnight on April 9, 2016.  On a recent training run for this race, a thought came to me.

Have you guessed it yet?  Yes.  It has to do with my dream and my mission.  First, let's start with the mission.

My mission for this race and for every race moving forward is to raise awareness and solicit research funds for the eradication of Parkinson's Disease.  

I know it's a lofty goal, but it is one that I feel is worthy of pursuing and  it is the way - however small - that I feel I can best pay tribute to my father and perhaps start to pay him back for all of the aforementioned memories, experiences and values.

It is also a mission I cannot accomplish alone.  Which brings me to my dream.

Training for and entering ultramarathons - especially for someone who considers himself a non-runner - takes a fair amount of work, dedication, time...and finances.

For my part, I can readily contribute the work, dedication and time.  What I need assistance with is the finances.  The pesonal hobby portion of my mission I can finance on my own.  From shoes, to training gear and entry fees for the races themselves, my dream of running at least four races a year in tribute to Parkinson's is currently manageable.  

However, the financial assistance I am seeking is not for me.  And this is where my dream comes in.

At this point, I have not spoken to anyone about it, not even my wife, but here is my dream.  I do not wish to be the only one running to raise awareness for Parkinson's Disease.  

Right now, my family and some of our acquaintances are part of a running group we call the Sorenson Stampeders.  For the past five years, my niece has organized an unofficial 5k run for Parkinson's Disease in honor of my father.

Every year in February - when temperatures usually hover around 0 degrees in Minnesota - about 20-25 of us, ranging in age from 5 to 55, get together, run a 5k, share a meal and take a freewill donation which we send to the Parkinson's Institute of Minnesota.  It usually amounts to a few hundred dollars or so.

This is where the rest of my dream comes in - I wish to get as many people as I can running for the battle against Parkinson's.

While it may start with me, I hope to include our family running group as well.  However, we are just a small group in our own neck of the woods.  Additionally, none of us are what you would call elite-level runners.  This combination of factors somewhat limits our awareness-raising and fundraising potential. 

While right now we mostly run races in Minnesota, eventually I would like to be able to branch out to some of the big name races in other states.

And the last part of the dream?  

Perhaps one day word of our cause could spread and we could recruit well-known elite level runners to it through offering sponsorships.  That would truly be my dream come true.

It seems that the phrase "Dream big!" has been bandied about a bit in recent years, but despite it's somewhat overused status, that's what I am doing with this campaign's solicitation.

Your financial contribution to my dream will accomplish two things:

1.  It will assist me in making my dream come true, and...

2.  It will help me pay tribute to a man many of you may never know, but you'll just have to trust me when I say he is worth paying tribute to.

That's about it.  Whether or not you choose to donate, I would greatly appreciate if you share this link and my family's story with anyone of your choosing.  The more who are aware, the better chances we have of achieving this dream!

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Stu Sorenson
Cloquet, MN


  • Jerry LaRochelle
    • $10 
    • 8 yrs


Stu Sorenson
Cloquet, MN

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