For two years, Ivo de Bisschop and Wouter Degraeve had planned an elaborate walk with friends to help accelerate a cure for Parkinson’s disease (PD). Even the global pandemic didn’t dampen spirits as they set off on August 23 for the 49 day,1,500 kilometer (932 miles) walk around the Belgium border.
Their goal? Raise critical funds for Parkinson’s research and join friends and neighbors for a trek to put PD in the spotlight.
Ivo was diagnosed with PD at age 62. Parkinson’s is a disease that affects at least 35,000 Belgians and 6 million people worldwide. Ivo says, “There is a lot of trepidation and taboo around Parkinson’s, and I wanted to break that.” Throughout his 1,500 km walk Ivo, Wouter and friends walk and talk with people along their mapped route
Ivo took the first steps of his journey, the Stop Parkinson Walk, from Oostende and will end there as well on October 10. Along the way, he and guest authors document each stage of the walk, from the people they meet to the unexpected challenges they tackle. Stories like day 14 where 400 walkers, including 50 people with Parkinson’s, were inspired to join Ivo’s expedition to Maasmechelen. Or adventure in stage 33 from Croix-Scaile to Givet when a planned stroll across a bridge turns to wading through water and mud when the bridge is not there anymore.
One group that is familiar with the importance of a walk this scale is the Stop Parkinson Walk sponsor and Michael J. Fox Foundation supporter Demoucelle Parkinson Charity. Patrick Demoucelle was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s on his 40th birthday. He with his wife Anne-Marie “changed everything,” following the diagnosis, applying their business acumen and do everything they could to speed a cure for Parkinson’s.
“Ivo’s journey and his goal of raising nearly one million Euro step-by-step across the Belgian countryside are truly motivating for Patrick, myself and the entire Parkinson’s community” comments Anne-Marie Demoucelle. “We know that positive energy and moving forward – whether you walk or share your personal experience of living with PD with others – will move us closer to the cure. We are extremely proud to sponsor Ivo’s walk and, as a recipient of his fundraising, support vital research that will make a difference.”
Ivo and Wouter are nearing their finish line and making incredible strides in fundraising and awareness across the Belgium countryside. To track their progress, read the blog and contribute to the walk, visit StopParkinson.be