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Sailing adventure shines light on Parkinson’s disease

Thu, 08/30/2018 - 11:17 -- Chris Cooke
Steve Van Vlaenderen and Darlene Hildebrand with Dave Brown

He is 68 years old and his hand shakes. He is depressed and battles anxiety but Steve Van Vlaenderen of Winnipeg refuses to give up.

His taste and smell are gone and his hearing is diminished and he says his muscles never stop aching. But for Van Vlaenderen his journey with Parkinson disease continues on as he sails the Great Lakes on a two – year adventure aimed at shining a light on the degenerative neurological disease.

Diagnosed in 2011 Van Vlaenderen and his 65-year-old partner Darlene Hildebrand berthed their 31-foot cruiser ‘Cloud’ at Bridgeview Marina. The sailing adventure entitled Sail on with Parkinson’s began June 22 from Superior, Wisconsin and in 60 days they travelled 1450 kilometres with stops at 20 locations including Sarnia where they will winter at Bridgeview.

“Parkinson’s is like an iceberg,” says Van Vlaenderen with 10 percent above the surface, “stuff people see” like tremors and 90 percent below.

On their voyage, the couple encountered unfamiliar waters, emergency situations including a U.S. Coast Guard rescue and nasty weather. They described the voyage as “the challenges of their life”.

Hildebrand described it as a “terrific adventure. Few people do something like this even if they are completely heathy and much younger. For us it is exciting”. The purpose says Hildebrand is to give people hope.

The couple will resume their journey next summer when they will tackle Lake Erie, Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River through until Montreal.

Sarnia’s annual walk for Parkinson’s will be held September 16 from Centennial Park. The walk leaves from Stokes Bay at 2pm. Last year more than $35,000.00 was raised by 200 walkers.

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