About Us - Sunnybrook Foundation

We’ve lost a leader

February 11, 2015

How do you respond if you’re diagnosed with a progressively debilitating condition that will profoundly disable your body, but leave your mind intact? If you are Derek Walton, you live with it. You dedicate that untouched inner strength to a remarkable run of remaining years, in selfless service to community and care. “As my arms and legs weaken, so too does my energy level,” Derek said. “But not my heart.”

Sunnybrook and everyone who received comfort, support and solidarity from Derek during his more than 12 years living with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) are honoured to be part of his extraordinary story, and to benefit from his tireless generosity. He left us, with so much to be thankful for, on January 17th at Hospice Simcoe. He was 70.

“Facing this personal tragedy, he never expressed self-pity,” says Patrick Brown, MP for Barrie, which Derek called home. Instead, he was driven to raise awareness and funds for ALS research. “When Derek was confined to a wheelchair by ALS,” says Lesley Alboini of Sunnybrook’s Governing Council, “that did not stop him.” He was appointed ALS Spokesman for Ontario and Canada to advocate support at the parliamentary level.

Derek was awarded a Diamond Jubilee Medal to honour the inception of his Walton Cure 4 ALS Fund. For four years he spearheaded ‘Jumping 4 PALS (People with ALS)’, jumping 15,000 feet alongside the many he inspired to join him, and raising more than $300,000 for Sunnybrook’s ALS/Neuromuscular Clinic. “Just because I can’t walk,” said Derek, “doesn’t mean I can’t jump out of a plane.”

Derek was named recipient of a Sunnybrook Rose Award in 2013 to recognize his tremendous contributions. “He was a leader,” says Dr. Jon Dellandrea, president and CEO of Sunnybrook Foundation. “He actively created opportunities to give back as much as possible. His strength of character brought valuable public awareness to ALS. He was a positive role model for others struggling with disabling health challenges. We are deeply grateful to Derek.”

Derek Walton