Riding With Purpose

When Scott Vanderstelt found out that his dad had Parkinson’s disease in 2010, he reacted as many others do, thinking: “What can I do to help and support my dad?”  Although Scott is not a professional fundraiser, his determination led him to explore every option to help raise awareness and money for Parkinson’s research, and finally led him to mix his passion for cycling with local nonprofit Van Andel Institute (VAI).

Scott is the captain of Team Troll, a group of cyclists who are raising awareness and money for Parkinson’s research at Van Andel Institute.  Team Troll originated several years ago when a group of friends went smelt dipping and trout fishing at the Mackinac Bridge. Some locals dubbed the group trolls because they spent so much time under the bridge. Until 2010, Team Troll was a group of people that had a common interest in hunting, fishing, and the great outdoors. When Scott found out that his dad had Parkinson’s, he saw an opportunity to take the team’s focus in a more serious and purposeful direction.

According to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, Parkinson’s disease (PD) affects 1 out of every 100 people in the world over the age of 60. This equates to about 1 million people in the U.S and 5 million people worldwide. While it mostly affects people over 60, people have been diagnosed as young as 18. The most commonly recognized symptoms of PD are resting tremor, slowness of movement, balance problems, and rigidity. This chronic degenerative neurological disorder is very difficult to diagnose because there are no known biological markers that indicate the disease is present. The exact cause of PD is unknown and treating PD is limited only to symptomatic relief. There is no cure.

And that’s what Scott wants to help change through Team Troll. As more and more research is being done, more is being learned about what PD actually is, what genetic and/or environmental factors might raise the risk of acquiring PD, and how to treat it or eliminate it. Van Andel Institute is quickly becoming a globally recognized research facility and already working on PD research, so the partnership was a natural fit for Team Troll. VAI also recently recruited Dr. Patrik Brundin, an internationally renowned expert in the field of Parkinson’s.

Team Troll is biking to raise awareness, which Scott hopes will translate into dollars being donated to VAI for their research. The 2012 team currently is comprised of 10 cycling enthusiasts of varying skill and experience who will ride at various events and races throughout 2012. By attending these events, they will promote their fundraising effort for research at VAI. They will also be securing corporate sponsors to help offset the cost of their cycling jerseys (the personal billboards used to market their campaign) and entry fees to the various events. Through a gift from GoPro, a point of view video camera manufacturer, Scott will also be video documenting his season to help share his story beyond the bike track.

You can help, too. Keep up with what Team Troll is doing through facebook (www.facebook.com/TeamTroll) or follow them on twitter (@TeamTroll1). They also have a page on VAI’s website for people to donate directly to PD research:  http://www.vai.org/News/Events/2012/Team-Troll-for-Parkinsons.aspx.  Learn more about VAI at www.vai.org.