Everyday hero Steve Van Vlaenderen hits the airwaves for Parkinson SuperWalk

Steve Van Vlaenderen
Steve Van Vlaenderen

Parkinson SuperWalk 2015 is weeks away, and Steve Van Vlaenderen, 66, of Winnipeg, has already raised well over $1,000 for the Parkinson cause. He is confident he’ll reach his $2,500 goal before taking part in his first Parkinson SuperWalk on September 12. “I still remember hearing what was said when I was diagnosed in 2011: ‘There is no cure for Parkinson’s,’” says Van Vlaenderen. “We need to fund vital research to find better treatments, and ultimately end this complex disease. We cannot wait for a cure.”

In a radio ad promoting Parkinson SuperWalk across Canada, Van Vlaenderen urges all Canadians to participate, or to support one of the 14,000 other participants in more than 100 communities across the country on September 12 and 13. Every day, 10 Canadians are diagnosed with Parkinson’s and by 2031, the Parkinson’s population in Canada is expected to double.

While Van Vlaenderen started his fundraising in May, there is still plenty of time left to register for Parkinson SuperWalk and ask your family and friends to join you in the event, or to support your efforts. It’s a fun family outing, usually held in a local park setting, and doesn’t require any superpowers. And if joining on the day doesn’t fit your schedule, you can still support the cause and register online and fundraise as a virtual walker.

Van Vlaenderen is beyond prepared for most physical challenges, despite living with Parkinson’s every day. He has just returned from a three-week sailing adventure on Lake Winnipeg. And earlier this spring, he placed second in his class in the Manitoba Amateur Body Building Association Championship. He regularly trains at the gym five days a week for two hours a day and eats a healthy diet. This wasn’t always the case.

When first learning of his diagnosis, Van Vlaenderen became very depressed and suffered from anxiety. “I went to the hospital twice with panic attacks thinking I was having a heart attack,” he says. He gained a lot of weight and felt overwhelmed.

“On September 28, 2013, I remember the date, I decided to face Parkinson’s head on and take charge of my life,” says Van Vlaenderen. “I set goals. I started going to the gym. I decided to learn everything I could about my own body and Parkinson’s. It’s a different experience for everyone, so you need to learn to sync your mind and body and stay positive. Today, I consider Parkinson’s an annoyance, rather than a handicap.”

Van Vlaenderen believes goal-setting is very important to taking control of Parkinson’s and staying positive. After Parkinson SuperWalk, he’ll start training for the Manitoba Body Building Association Championships next spring and then on to the Nationals. While he admits his goals may be extreme for most people living with Parkinson’s, he says goals give structure to your day. “Just beginning with a walk around the block one day and then gradually doing more as you set new goals can make a big difference, both physically and mentally,” he says.

By sharing his story and promoting Parkinson SuperWalk, he hopes to inspire others dealing with this devastating disease. Van Vlaenderen was overwhelmed when he received three standing ovations from the huge crowd on hand at the body building competition in the spring. He imagines he’ll feel just as good completing the Parkinson SuperWalk in September by raising awareness and funds for research and community support for those living with the disease.

You can join Steve Van Vlaenderen, and so many other everyday heroes, by registering today for Parkinson SuperWalk 2015. Because a cure can’t wait.

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