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Trekking across country for Parkinson’s; Illinois man walks to Roswell en route to California, $100K goal

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Bill Bucklew heads west into Roswell on U.S. Highway 380 on Saturday afternoon as part of his cross-country trek to raise money for Parkinson’s disease research. He will continue toward Las Cruces today. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

A Chicago-area man with a goal to raise at least $100,000 for Parkinson’s disease research was about 20 miles east of the Roswell city limits by Saturday afternoon as he continued a cross-country trek started the day after Thanksgiving.

On Saturday, Bill Bucklew had started his long daily walk about 35 miles from the Texas border and planned to spend the night in Roswell before heading out again this morning on his way to Las Cruces and, ultimately, San Diego, California.

Diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s in 2012 at age 43, Bucklew began his trek Nov. 24th in Tybee Island, Georgia. He has made it 1,622 miles so far and has raised $80,000, with $50,000 donated to the Michael J. Fox Foundation before the end of 2017, he said.

Half of that $50,000 donation was matched, so $75,000 was given to the foundation, which uses all the money it raises for research purposes, said friend Steve Sergesketter, also a board member for Bucklew’s nonprofit, Uncorked Adventures.

Bucklew, a product designer with Pampered Chef who has been given time off for his pursuit, said he and his father have been diagnosed with the disease and his grandfather possibly has it as well.

Once an avid runner, Bucklew said that he can’t run anymore as a result of stiffness on one side, what he said was a symptom of Parkinson’s. He said the walk is one way he is seeking to help others, and not only by raising awareness and money. He also wants to inspire people who might feel shut down by the diagnosis.

“Exercise is the only known way to prevent the symptoms,” he said. “And I thought it was a pretty good metaphor to say, I can’t run anymore but I can walk and look what I can do.”

Friends, supporters and board members of his nonprofit organization, Uncorked Adventures, have been joining him at various points along his trek, which he expects to finish by Jan. 31.

“Bill has been a real inspiration, and there are a lot of people at home rooting for him,” said Sergesketter, who walked with Bucklew for four days through Texas. “We hope he makes it, and the ultimate goal, of course, is to find a cure.”

Bucklew’s journey has been chronicled by the “Today” show and other major news media outlets. People also can track watch his daily progress on his website, uncorkedadventures.org, which includes a live tracker to provide real-time information about his location during his walks. More information about his nonprofit organization and walk is available on the site.

Bucklew, who is followed by a driver in a recreational vehicle used for stops and overnight stays, said he plans to walk at least 40 miles a day to reach California and is anxious to return home to his two children, a son, 11, and a daughter, 14.

“I could set a world record,” he said. “That has never been my intention, but I need to get back to my family and my work.”