Couple spreads message during lake adventure

A Parkinson’s diagnosis can slow someone down, but Steve Van Vlaenderen chose to keep going after being diagnosed with the disease.Van Vlaenderen, from Winnipeg, was initially struck down by his diagnosis in 2011 and spent some time dealing with anxiety and depression. During this time he put on weight and felt like he had “hit rock bottom.”One night in 2013 he had a long talk with his partner, Darlene Hildebrand. They discussed his dreams, goals, and he decided to get back on track.Afterwards he decided he wanted to remain active, so he joined a gym to stay healthy. A trainer in the gym noticed his tremors and started up a conversation about strength training while living with Parkinson’s. The trainer helped him create a meal plan and get into body building, which created a new goal for Van Vlaenderen to work towards.Van Vlaenderen competed in an over 50 body building competition, and finished in second place. He also won another award for being the most inspiring competitor.“The main reason I competed was to put out the message that you can do whatever you put your mind to.”A year before Van Vlaenderen was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, he purchased a sailboat. Doctors recommended he give up sailing, but he decided to sail all of the Great Lakes instead.He and Hildebrand started on their two-year journey on June 22, 2018. They’ve titled the adventure Sail On With Parkinson’s. They are travelling on a 31-foot 1981 Niagara 31 sailboat, named Cloud.On Wednesday the couple stopped at Port Dover Harbour Marina. While in Port Dover they held a meet and greet at Riverfront Park with Paul Scibetta, a representative from Parkinson Canada.“Lake Erie is very challenging. You don’t know what you’re going to get from day to day,” said Van Vlaenderen. “I think Lake Erie has been the most challenging.”The pair have already sailed Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and are now working along Lake Erie.“Sailing through the Great Lakes is a good metaphor for Parkinson’s. I always say Parkinson’s is CCA, a complicated collection of ailments, and every day is different,” said Van Vlaenderen.The couple has faced quite a few non-health-related hiccups along their journey. The boat’s ignition switch stopped working, the pump to cool the engine burned out, which caused the engine to stop working, and their stern line has been caught in strong waters.“Our trip is to encourage people to move forward and not lose hope,” said Van Vlaenderen.To learn more about their journey, or to donate to Parkinson Canada, you can visit [email protected] read more