As Crees from all over Eeyou Istchee congregated in Eastmain for the Annual General Assembly, one local man went about meeting as many delegates as he could simply to raise money for Parkinson’s disease.

But, why Preston Gilpin does this is a whole different story. Gilpin doesn’t have Parkinson’s and, for that matter, he has never known anyone intimately who has ever suffered from the disease either. It is rather his simple desire to see diseases cured and raise funds for research charities that has seen him raise over $10,000 over the course of his lifetime for diseases like breast cancer, leukemia and Parkinson’s.

“Usually I will go around town, house to house to let people know that I am doing this, looking for donations to find a cure for one of these diseases,” said Gilpin.

But, what really motivates Gilpin to get out and raise money for disease research is how much he can relate to those who have suffered the victimization of illness, having been born handicapped himself.

Gilpin has spina bifida or a cleft spine, which is a developmental congenital disorder caused by the incomplete closing of the embryonic neural tube. As a result, Gilpin’s spine was damaged by the disease though he can walk and says that most people see him as a “normal person.”

But, this does not mean that he hasn’t led a life of adversity. Gilpin said when he was born the doctors told his family that he would never talk, that he would never crawl and that he would certainly never be able to walk. He however beat all of the odds, surpassing all three milestones.

Gilpin says his family was also told that he would never, ever live beyond the age of 18 but, he beat those odds also, having surpassed his 25th birthday, another feat he says he thought he would never see.

How did he beat those odds exactly?

“Well, I have never done any drugs or alcohol,” he says, but laughingly acknowledges that his lack of interest in substance abuse may not be the only contributing factor.

What is really beyond the longevity he has experienced despite his condition, he doesn’t actually know but was not really willing to speculate about either.

While Gilpin may have had his own cross to bear with spina bifida, he has pretty much devoted his whole life to raising money for disease research starting in 2006.

He said he would chose these different disease research charities simply because he would hear about those suffering from these diseases through his dad and then devote himself to raising money simply because he wanted to help.

“It has helped me to do this and I feel as though has really helped those organizations despite how I have never really met the people from these organizations. They send me their forms and I go out and collect for them because they are having a campaign for a few days or weeks,” said Gilpin.

His most recent cause has been Parkinson’s disease as he was inspired by a couple living in Val-d’Or who he met only briefly. Gilpin said he had heard about a man who owned a store in Val-d’Or whose wife was suffering from Parkinson’s, and, after seeing them once four years ago, he began his crusade to raise money for Parkinson’s research.

In the last four years, Gilpin said he has raised between $4000-$5000 for the cause and isn’t stopping his crusade anytime soon.

Going from delegate to delegate at the Eastmain AGA, Gilpin said he was able to raise almost $500 through the generosity of the attendees.

As fundraising has become his own labour of love, Gilpin has no intention to stop his campaign to see cures for what he cares about anytime soon. To find out how you too can support Gilpin in his effort to raise money for Parkinson’s disease, call him at 819-977-2932.