Saskatchewan·Future 40

'Passionate about Parkinson's': Travis Low founds charity, raises $550K

Travis Low's charity Lows in Motion, founded after his father was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, has raised more than half a million dollars for Parkinson Canada.

2013 Future 40 finalist raises half a million for Parkinson's disease after father diagnosed

Travis Low (centre) with his father and grandfather, both who were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

Travis Low has watched his father's physical and cognitive abilities diminish over the last decade. It's been hard for him and everyone in his family.

His dad was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease at age 48, before he had even had a chance to finish his career. 

"It was a really sad thing and it shocked our family," he said.

The Lows in Motion annual Parkinson's Shaker will hold it's tenth and final fundraising gala in 2018. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

Low, who was in his early 20s at the time, decided he would work through his shock and sorrow by using his business education and pairing it with philanthropic action.

Lows in Motion and its highly successful fundraiser, the Parkinson's Shaker, were born. Low said he founded the charity to make a difference for other people like his father and grandfather, who were diagnosed with the neurological disease, and their families.

Lows in Motion has raised about $550,000 for Parkinson Canada. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

A decade later, Lows in Motions raised about $550,000 for the Saskatchewan division of Parkinson Canada.

"It's a pretty lively event. A pretty youthful event which is non-typical for Parkinson's fundraising events," said Low.

According to the charity's website, it's the most-attended Parkinson's fundraiser in the country.


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A snapshot from the 2017 Lows in Motion's Parkinson's Shaker. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

After founding Lows in Motion, Low threw himself into raising awareness and money for Parkinson's disease, accepting the position of executive director with Parkinson's Society of Saskatchewan in 2011. The society joined with Parkinson Canada during his tenure.

During his time with the organization, Low spearheaded the first-ever Parkinson's education conference, bringing together experts and health care professionals from across North America to speak in Saskatoon.

"I'd like to think that the difference we've been able to make for people living in our province, and for people living across Canada, is that we've creating more awareness and education."

Travis Low poses with a painting of tulips. Parkinson Society Saskatchewan received the picture as an office warming gift. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

Today Parkinson Canada's Saskatchewan division focuses on awareness, education, research and support for people diagnosed with the degenerative disease and their families.

Low understands the need for support. During his time as executive director, he was often the first contact for people  who had recently been diagnosed and their families. He fielded a lot of bewildered, painful phone calls that resonated deeply due to his own family's painful experience.

In his role as executive director, Travis Low helped to grow Parkinson Society Saskatchewan. Under his leadership the organization opened its first office and broadened its services. This photo was taken at the first support group meeting it organized. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

"It was a bit of an emotional battle I was going through ... something I had a deep-rooted passion in, but also something I struggled with as well."

Taking time to see the world

Travis Low poses for a picture near a passing train in Austria. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

Low decided to pivot from a challenging personal situation and turn it into an opportunity. 

He decided to take time to grow, stepping away from his successful leadership role. For him, this meant visiting 14 countries.

Travis Low in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

"It was pretty incredible travelling the world for a year," said Low.

The journey took Low on a tour through Europe and South America. He spent a summer in Scotland living on an island. He attended The Open at St. Andrews, one of golf's four major tournaments.

Travis Low and friends pose for a photo at The Open at St. Andrews in Scotland. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

Low made his way through central Europe, stopping to work at a yoga retreat in the alps and to eat pizza, pasta and drink wine in Italy.

Travis Low in Prague, Czech Republic. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

He briefly came back to Saskatchewan in the middle of his trip to attend the Lows in Motion Parkinson's Shaker, then headed to South America. The southern leg of the trip saw a stint working at a surf/yoga/Spanish school in Ecuador and a hike up and down Machu Picchu, plus lots of surfing in between.

"It was an incredible year and a highlight of my life for sure," said Low.

Travis Low during his trip up Machu Picchu in Peru. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

Saskatchewan is the place to be (and start a business)

The most important lesson Low said he learned while he was away was the value of his hometown.

Travis Low and Ricky Forbes founded Blue Moose Media in Saskatoon, Sask. This photo was taken in the team's first office. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

"Saskatchewan is home and it's an incredible place to be from and to live," he said. "I saw some unbelievable places around the world but I still love Saskatoon, love Saskatchewan and am very happy to still call this my home."

After returning home to Saskatoon, Low and Ricky Forbes, a university friend turned storm-chasing social media maverick, cooked up the idea for a social media management and training company, Blue Moose Media, while paddle boarding down the South Saskatchewan River.

"We really saw a gap in businesses being able to market their product using social media," said Low.

The pair's blend of social media expertise and business experience has allowed the company to grow. Currently, it's efforts are focused on helping companies in Saskatoon and Northern Sask.

Blue Moose Media is a social media management and training company. Low said today it focuses primarily on teaching social media best practices to companies. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

"We're too busy," laughed Low.  "I easily could have lived any of the places I visited, but there's something about this place. Knowing your roots. Being proud of where I'm from and coming back here, starting my own business."

This year marks the 10th, and final, Parkinson's Shaker. The event is sold out.

Travis Low said after travelling, he knew Saskatchewan was home. (Travis Low/Submitted to CBC)

Do you know someone who is working hard to make Saskatchewan a better place? Nominate them (or yourself) for CBC Saskatchewan's Future 40 today.

About the Author

Madeline Kotzer

@MadelineKotzer

Madeline Kotzer is an award-winning Saskatchewan journalist and Social Media News Editor/Presenter for CBC Saskatchewan and CBC Saskatoon.

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