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Bill Schulz: Supporter and Friend of Bill Van Nierop

Updated: Jul 25, 2023

I met Bill through work in 1996, and he quickly became a good mate.

In 2018 when Bill Van Nierop braved his first long kayak, I joined his support crew – picking him up from the riverbank after long days on the water.

At the time, I was concerned about him getting wet and cold, but his determination to kayak the Murray River (Australia’s longest river) was inspiring. It’s amazing for anyone to paddle that length - let alone someone his age and impacted by illness. The determination was staggering.

It’s incredible what the body and the mind can do when it's applied. He was hurting during this kayak, but he just had this focus, and it’s that same focus that saw him fight "the beast", as he called it, and when he was preparing for his transplant.

Lots of challenges arose when kayaking the Murray. There is the mental challenge of getting up each day and paddling on, and mentally staying focused. Along with that, there’s the fatigue, the soreness; if it's windy and you’re paddling into the wind, it's hard work. A lot of the time, he didn’t have anyone paddling alongside him, so there was no one to talk to.

This year, he’s tackling a new river, and there will be several different challenges with this new territory. The Murrumbidgee River will have more logs and snags along the way as they can’t be removed, and as it’s more natural terrain, it’ll be more unpredictable.

A lot of the land around the river is privately-owned farmland, and as I’ve lived in this area for several decades, I know some of the owners and have an idea of the land. One of the hardest things this time will be dropping him off on the riverbank and picking him up. There are no signs telling him where to stop, and contact will be more difficult.

I live in Wagga Wagga, and due to its proximity to the river, it will be the ideal spot for Bill to stay for a fair portion of this journey.

It’s fair to say Bill that doesn’t have to prove anything, but the fact that he wants to go out there and do the challenge itself, and spread the story, is a wonderful thing for society. The way he explains his story and the experience of both living with a lung disease and having a transplant is remarkable and relatable. He has this ability to make people stop, listen and understand.

I think his commitment to trying to improve awareness of IPF and improve research makes the world a better place. I have the utmost time and respect for him. He could keep himself fit and fly under the radar, but his selflessness and desire to make a change are enormous.


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