Pitch in for Parkinson‘s asks people to commit to a physical challenge to fundraise for Parkinson’s NSW. Most people do things like upping their daily steps, running each day or doing yoga twice a week.
Mark Peterson, from country New South Wales, is taking the challenge further. He’s off to Japan in late April to complete the historic Shikoku 88 Temple O-Henro pilgrimage.
The route visits 88 Buddhist temples along the 1200-kilometre path. Many Japanese pilgrims take buses between temples, but Mark will be walking. He expects it will take six weeks.
“My partner and I taught English in Japan in our 20s,” said Mark. “I first heard of the pilgrimage then but didn’t realise how long it was.
“In 2017 I started planning to do it with my family for my fiftieth birthday. But they didn’t want to do the whole thing and then COVID came along.”
Mark, who has completed a number of other endurance challenges, decided to fundraise for Parkinson’s NSW for this trip.
“My grandfather had Parkinson’s,” he says. “When I was a teen I watched him progressing through the various stages. Now I know more and more older people with it. I have seen the strain on families and carers. I see the difficulties that it causes in their lives and how fantastic the support groups are.
“I’m doing this to fundraise for both support groups and research. With two boys myself, I hope there will be something found that prevents them from developing it.”
Mark will complete the pilgrimage solo, though he expects to meet many people of different nationalities along the way.
“I’m not Buddhist or religious but this pilgrimage is often done with prayers for healing at each temple,” says Mark. “That seemed very appropriate.”
“A lot of the modern route is along roads, but I plan to take as many off-road paths as I can. It’s in a remote region and traditionally people would offer accommodation to pilgrims. Gifting a pilgrim is like doing some of the pilgrimage yourself.”
“But COVID has made people more cautious. I think it will be challenging following paths and finding places to stay, even though I speak conversational Japanese. We are so used to having everything planned ahead of time.”
Mark’s family will join him at the end of his pilgrimage for some sightseeing.
You can support Mark by visiting his Pitch in for Parkinson’s page at: