CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For Connie Jones, walking in Saturday's Fox Trot for Parkinson's Research was like finally opening up about a closely guarded secret.
"I didn't want to do this, but they kept pushing me. I was diagnosed two years ago, and I wouldn't tell anyone except for my family and very close friends," said Jones, 54. "Today was a very big deal."
More than 85 people wore T-shirts supporting team "Momma Jones" in Charleston's 5K walk to benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation, which kicked off the Green Chili competition at the Capitol Market.
Parkinson's disease is a chronic, degenerative neurological disorder with symptoms that typically progress from a mild tremor to physical incapacitation.
Jones helped raise $3,000 to find a cure, exceeding her original goal by $1,000. But to be able to walk with confidence hasn't been an easy journey, she said.
"My kids would get onto me for hiding my hand when it was shaking. I didn't want to admit it, until one night, we set down on Facebook, and I did it. I came out of the closet," she said. "I just can't believe all the support I have."
That support system includes her son, 29-year-old Andrew, who never misses a medical checkup with his mother.
"She was ashamed of it. The biggest thing for her is to be able to be OK to go out in public with a tremor and be able to talk about it," he said. "We're trying to get a support group so that people with Parkinson's can talk to other people with the disease and feel OK."
Event organizer George Manahan, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's three years ago, was able to raise a total of more than $8,000 for research through Saturday's efforts.
Following the walk, 37 chili connoisseurs competed in the all-day Green Chili Shootout at Capitol Market. Two of the contestants were sisters June Canfield and Pat Wilcox, who have been keeping up a healthy sibling rivalry for years.