Disabled Divas pedal for MS awareness

By Joshua McKenzie-Brown

The ‘Disabled Divas’ are challenging themselves and the public perception of disability. In the lead up to World Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Day, a group of disabled women and one man will brave the Dunedin early morning chill to raise money for MS on Saturday May 27.

These are not your regular weekend warriors. They’re the ‘Disabled Divas’ and they all live with MS, as does their coach David Parker. 

The National MS Society describes Multiple Sclerosis as “a disease that impacts the brain, spinal cord and optic nerves, which make up the central nervous system and controls everything we do. Symptoms are numbness, mood changes, memory problems, pain, fatigue, blindness and/or paralysis. Everyone’s experience with MS is different and these losses may be temporary or long lasting.”

The team plan to ride a stationary exercycle in a relay style event for as long as they can. 

“I’ve booked the Octagon from 8am till 11pm”, Parker says optimistically. 

This isn’t the first event for the “Disabled Divas” or Parker. Together, they’re raising thousands for the condition that they all share. 

“This is going to be a celebration of our abilities. Showcasing what we can do,” he says.

In his late thirties, Parker was diagnosed with MS around 6 years ago. He’s had hip replacements, went blind for two years, and lost strength in his right arm, including the ability to type. Parker is also raising three children on his own, after his wife died. Since then, he’s dedicated his time to improving the lives of others with MS, through his fundraising efforts and personal training. 

Parker wants people with neurological conditions to know that they can be as active as they want. His training sessions specialise in supporting those with these disabilities to overcome their physical limitations and live life on their own terms. 

To date the Divas have already completed a powerlifting event raising money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society of NZ and Otago Multiple Sclerosis Society. The same charities the May 27 event will be supporting.

Parker has been training the Divas for years and is optimistic they will knock it out of the park. He’s a firm believer that disability is not an excuse to live your life on the couch. As we wrap up our conversation he casually mentions he has another hip replacement coming up in a few weeks. 

Spending all day on a bike pre-surgery may not be the doctor’s orders, but nothing will stop Parker as he continues to make a significant difference in the lives of those living with Multiple Sclerosis.