Family trio take first of five million steps

When you are planning a 3000km trek across the country you need special motivation.

Three members of the Paroli family started off on the "Long Pathway" from Cape Reinga to Bluff on Saturday motivated in the tough days ahead by the desire to raise funds for Special Olympics New Zealand.

Special Olympics offers sports training and competition for more than 6000 people with intellectual disabilities in New Zealand and countless more worldwide.

Otaki's Beni Paroli (51), his older brother Luigi (53) from California and his son Sarn, a Levin policeman, began the walk on Friday as a fundraiser for the Law Enforcement Torch Run New Zealand Charitable Trust (LETR). Globally LETR is supported by more than 90,000 law enforcement officials in 35 countries.

"Luigi, Beni and I have been keen to do the trail for a while and saw it as the perfect opportunity to help an organisation along the way and we're excited to be partnered with Special Olympics New Zealand," Sarn said.

On Sunday, the search and rescue specialist was already looking forward to reaching Ahipara after two days of solid walking along 90-Mile beach.

"This is a long beach - really long - but we're three days into it now so we're beginning to get up to speed now," he said.

The trio will be joined by members of their family and supporters along the way and local Special Olympics organisations will welcome them as they pass through their areas. Their next stop after Ahipara is Kerikeri.

"It is a four-and-a-half-month long trip. Once we set off we're on our own and everything we need we will be carrying with us in packs, it's a huge commitment but we have the support of our families and hope to catch up with as many of the Special Olympics team along the way," Sarn added.

Luigi Paroli is no stranger to long walks. Born and raised in Johnsonville he has been based in the USA for the past 25 years. He has completed several long distance walks, most notably the 4120km Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada, which he filmed as a documentary for Television New Zealand.

"I was in my 20s then, now I'm in my 50s, so it's a different ball game... we'll average around 25 to 28km a day but some days we'll do eight and others 80. Roughly we'll take around five million steps to complete the journey," he said.

Beni joined Luigi to walk the 3476km Appalachian Trail in 1981 - the first Kiwis to complete the trek - and said there always was a bit of apprehension before getting started.

"But it's something we've always wanted to do - to walk the length of our own country... it's a long adventure but we're all very excited about it," he said.

Sarn Paroli is the officer in charge of the Horowhenua Police Search and Rescue squad and already has an acute awareness of New Zealand's remote environment. He is married and has three children aged eight, six and four and said he will miss his family and has already planned opportunities to have them join the trio on some of the more gentle paths as they trek across the country.

Beni, Sarn and Luigi Paroli before they set off on their trek along the length of New Zealand to raise money for Special Olympics NZ.

- Northland Age

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