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Randy Van Hierden close the hearts of A-T walkers

Conrad Van Hierden displays the new T-shirt for the 2011 A-T Walk for a Cure. The T-shirt was designed by Willy-Anne Moen.

ALLAN HALTON — GAZETTE CONTRIBUTOR
Conrad and Rhonda Van Hierden always keep their son Randy close to their heart.
And this year so will everyone else who runs or rides or strolls down from Hilltop Dairy to the river and back on the annual A-T Walk for a Cure.
Randy’s photo will be over their hearts on the new T-shirts they’ll all be wearing.
The new design shows a paint pallet with six photos of children who lives were blighted by A-T. Randy’s is the photo at the top.
The shirts were designed by one of Randy’s former care-givers, Willy-Anne Moen, a neighbour and family friend who helped care for Randy for over 10 years before he died of the rare genetic disease in 2004.
Moen came up with the paint pallet idea while looking for “something different.”
“I just decided to do it,” Moen said. “I wanted something different. It was kind of getting time for a change.”
“It’s a paint pallet,” Moen explained. “For every drop of paint there’s a child’s picture — a child that has suffered from A-T.”
Conrad Van Hierden is pleased with the new design.
“She’s a dear friend of ours — and was a dear friend of Randy’s,” Van Hierden said.
The Van Hierdens lost their son Randy to A-T in 2004 when he was 20. He’d been suffering the symptoms of the disease since he was six months old.
Ataxia telangiectasia is a rare genetic disease with multiple symptoms similar to cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy, cancer, and various immune deficiencies. It first appears in early childhood.
Van Hierden continues hopeful that a cure will soon be found.
“We’re working with academic and industry scientists in our search for compounds that may slow down the loss of brain cells seen in A-T,” Van Hierden said. “We’re getting close to being able to help the defective A-T gene start producing ATM protein again by altering a different gene on chromosome 11.”
It’s this ATM protein therapy research that provides the greatest possibility for a breakthrough, Van Hierden said.
“But it’s not quite at the clinical stage yet.”
“We’re also leading an effort with top neuroscientists to evaluate new approaches to treat the brain circuitry disrupted in A-T,” Van Hierden said. “This is a new direction for us and holds great promise for alleviating some of the disease’s worst symptoms.”
The Van Hierdens began organizing the annual walk for A-T research in 1998. Last year’s walk along with the silent auction and the A-T Charity Golf Scramble in Coaldale brought in $54,000.
That brings to about $800,000 the total the A-T walk has raised since 1998.
Children are the mainstay of the walk, Van Hierden said.
“The children make the most for the walk. They go door to door getting sponsors.”
“We are also receiving good support from our corporate sponsors,” Van Hierden said. “This, and the children raising awareness and collecting sponsors… this is very positive.” “Once again this year I am feeling very, very positive.”
Last year about 300 enthusiastic supporters participated in the walk and another 100 came for the lunch.
This year’s walk begins once again at Hilltop Dairy five kilometres north of Fort Macleod on Highway 811 on Saturday, June 11.
Registration begins at 10 a.m. and the walk will start at 11 a.m. rain or shine.
Revenue Canada requires a $10 registration fee from adults.
From 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. a lunch sponsored by the Guest House Restaurant in Lethbridge will be served — hot dogs, hamburgers, and potato and green salads.
Once again there will be a silent auction for young and old with items including hardware, certificates, gift baskets, baking, children’s toys, and books.
There will also be horse rides, jump tent, prizes, and gift certificates.
Van Hierden said that in order to receive one of the new T-shirts along with tickets for prizes, A-T walkers should bring their sponsor forms and collected donations together in an envelope to the registration table. The envelope should show their name and the amount collected on the front.
Donations may also be made directly to A-T Children’s Project Canada, Box 1958, Fort Macleod, T0L 0Z0. It’s a registered charity, so tax deductible receipts will be issued.
For more information call Conrad Van Hierden at 403-634-2625 or by e-mail at conradvh@telus.net.

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