Tybee Island man makes cross-country trek for Parkinson's awareness

TYBEE ISLAND, GA (WTOC) - When you commit to an eye-catching stunt to raise money for medical research, it's important that you set your goals as realistically as possible.

But this is not how Bill Bucklew sees things.

Recently diagnosed with Parkinson's, the former triathlete has lost the ability to run. Yet he is still planning on putting a cross-country world record into the history books and $1,000,000 dollars in the Parkinson's research account.

He was one of 50-thousand diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease back in 2012. He's one of a million with the disease in the U.S. today.  In fact, there are few people left in the country who don't have some connection to the world's most misunderstood disease. 

To help build more understanding, Bucklew has literally given his living body to Parkinson's research. 5-years so far of poking, prodding, spinal taps, CAT and DAT scans that make the life he has left, much less comfortable.

Now he is taking the next seven weeks and walking shore to shore from Tybee Island, Georgia to San Diego, California. That's 2,500 miles, coast to coast.

"There's no precedent," Bucklew said. "We don't know what's going to happen. I'm not super talented either so, we'll see."

He's not as coordinated either, not like he was when his was climbing mountains and completing triathlons.  Parkinson's has already taken a little movement from one foot. But he's still thinking about the disease.

"The only thing that's really believed to slow the progression is exercise," Bucklew said.

And he'll get it. This trek has been done before by athletes not fighting a disease. The record is 61 days. Bucklew will attempt to do it in just 50.

"I've got to be back to work the second week of January," Bucklew said. "So I'm doing two marathons a day distance wise back to back every day. So, it's going to be really tough."

But Bucklew wants a cure; not so much for him, but for the 50,000 who are finding out they have it this year.

"What I'm trying to do is talk to everybody that I can that has Parkinson's across the US and highlight the diversity of impact it has," Bucklew said

Truth is, you don't really get diagnosed with Parkinson's. You're just told your deteriorating central nervous system makes the probability high.

If Bucklew even gets close to completing this trek, the probability is high that he'll collect millions for the cause. And just as impactful, collect the attention of millions to a disease that is affecting more and more of us every year.

Bill Bucklew left Tybee Island on Friday morning and willpower walk his way toward San Diego for the next 49 days.

To follow his journey, ask questions or offer a donation to the cause, click here.

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