Sail For Parkinson’s Docks At Bridgeview

Steve Van Vlaenderen and his partner Darlene Hildebrand alongside Marina Operator Dave Brown. August 22, 2018. (Photo by Josh Boyce, BlackburnNews)

A Winnipeg couple sailing the Great Lakes to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease, has ended the 2018 portion of their two-year trek at Point Edward’s Bridgeview Marina.

Seven years ago, just a year after realizing his dream of owning a sailboat, Steve Van Vlaenderen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and was told by doctors he should give up sailing.

Instead, he and his wife Darlene, on June 22 of this year, embarked on their sail across the Great Lakes from Superior, Wisconsin.

After 60 days, 1,450 km, and 20 stops, they’re dry-docking their 31 ft sailing cruiser named Cloud at Bridgeview for the winter.

Steve says they encountered nasty weather and emergency situations, including a rescue from the U.S. Coast Guard, but there’s been a lot of support.

“When you have Parkinson’s, you need support,” says Van Vlaenderen. “So, I appeal to everybody to support this organization so they can give support back to the people that need help, people with Parkinson’s.

The correlation that I want to make is the support that is necessary for boaters, and equally the support necessary for Parkinson’s. That’s a lesson that was learned by this trip. The Coast Guard was there, the support group as the Apostle Islands Marina, they all pitched in. Parkinson’s is exactly the same scenario.”

He says the support from people along the journey was overwhelming.

“The message I’m always wanting to tell people is don’t give up, don’t let Parkinson’s define who you are. Take control, do what you have to do to accomplish your dream. Whether it’s artwork, gardening, woodworking, painting, dancing, boxing whatever it is, just go through it.”

The couple will continue the journey next summer through lakes Erie and Ontario, and the St. Lawrence River to Montreal.

The local Parkinson’s walk in Sarnia is taking place on September 16 at 2pm starting from Stoke’s By The Bay.

To donate to the Parkinson Society, click here.