Olivier Van Steirtegem has recently joined the DPC team of volunteers and will be joining #teambeatparkinson at the Brussels20k as part of our largest annual fundraiser ‘Run, or Walk, for Parkinson.

He has set up his own online fundraising page, setting an ambitious target of 10,000 euros and has reached out to his family, friends and colleagues to sponsor him.

We asked if he would introduce himself and share his motivation to support Parkinson’s research. 



Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Olivier Van Steirtegem. I’m 43 years old and the proud father of three wonderful children. Professionally, I’m a company director, and until recently I ran an office furniture manufacturing company based in France with 350 colleagues. I was also involved in a quasi-professional way – as spokesperson and coordinator of legal, governmental and awareness-raising activities – with the liberation of Olivier Vandecasteele. [Belgian aid worker detained by Iran]

Privately, I’m an avid pianist, reader and traveller, and enjoy jogging.

In what way are you supporting the Demoucelle Parkinson Charity? 
My last professional challenge came to an end in January. I’m now taking a few months to think about my next professional project, which I hope will have a wider social impact. As part of this, I naturally accepted Patrick and Anne-Marie’s offer to take up the challenge of raising awareness of Parkinson’s disease among the general public, government bodies and donors.

Why have you chosen to support research to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease?
There were three reasons why I decided to give my time to this cause:

  1. According to WHO figures, the number of people with Parkinson’s disease is rising sharply, and there is even talk of a pandemic. Between now and 2040, the number of cases is expected to double. Today alone, more than 3% of the population aged over 60 suffers from the disease. Almost everyone knows someone with Parkinson’s, and it’s a terribly isolating disease.
  2. I have been extremely lucky to work alongside Patrick and Anne-Marie. That was more than 10 years ago. They were an enormous source of inspiration, motivation and knowledge. They are people who combine extraordinary emotional and cognitive intelligence, and they have put their skills and energy to work on this important mission. Their values and professionalism are evident in the Demoucelle Parkinson Charity and reinforce my belief that by supporting them in this important endeavour, it is possible to make a real difference.
  3. I have a close family member who has suffered from this disease for many years. I know the extent to which the patient, the spouse/carer and the immediate family are changed by this experience. The progression of the disease, its physical, cognitive and emotional consequences, the ability to cope and family support are constantly being turned upside down.

What impact has Parkinson’s disease had on you personally?
I know how difficult it is – as someone close to a person with Parkinson’s – to accompany the patient and support him or her over the long term.  Seeing the effects of the disease up close has made me appreciate the simple things in life, like walking, talking, writing and eating. We take these things for granted and Parkinson’s takes them away from us. Having a young family, I want to help ensure that my children don’t have to fear this disease.

What do you want people to know about Parkinson’s disease?
In recent years, thanks to funding for Parkinson’s research, spectacular progress has been made towards finding a cure. Among these, the biomarker is a considerable advance that will enable patients to be diagnosed earlier (did you know that until now, a patient diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease had already lost 65% of his or her dopamine production? 65%!) In the long term, early diagnosis will mean better support for patients, as well as progress in research into understanding the disease and developing a treatment in the near future.

But, as always, money is key. Raising awareness among donors will help advance research and reduce the number of patients and their suffering. Everyone can make a difference, whether as a major donor, by making a gift in your will, by making an automatic monthly donation, by asking friends and family to sponsor you or by organising your own fundraising event, large or small. There are so many ways to get involved!

This year, I’m running the Brussels 20km with ‘Run, or Walk, for Parkinson’ and I’ve set up an online fundraising page so that my friends and family can sponsor me. It’s incredibly motivating to run for such an important cause! I am looking forward to wearing my red t-shirt on the day and feeling the energy that comes from being part of #teambeatparkinson.

Do you have a favourite motto or quote that inspires you?
“They didn’t know it was impossible, so they did it.” – Mark Twain

It’s a phrase that resonates with me like a wind of optimism that demonstrates our ability to surpass ourselves.