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A-T Walk for a Cure to mark 15th anniversary

When Rhonda and Conrad Van Hierden started the A-T Walk for a Cure 15 years ago they never expected the journey would be ongoing in 2013.
They started the walk to raise money for the A-T Children’s Project, which funds research into a cure or treatment for the rare genetic disease that attacks children.
“At that time you just want it to be done soon so you can find a cure,” Conrad Van Hierden said. “Now I know so much about the science you think, wow, is this ever complicated.”
“But we know we’re going in the right direction so we press on.”
The 15th annual A-T Walk for a Cure gets under way at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 15 from the Van Hierdens’ Hilltop Dairy five kilometres north of Fort Macleod on Secondary Highway 811.
Ataxia-telangiectasia, or A-T as it is more commonly known, is a rare genetic disease described as having cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, immune deficiencies, muscular dystrophy and cancer all rolled into one.
Conrad and Rhonda Van Hierden started the A-T Walk for a Cure after their son Randy, who died in November 2004, was diagnosed with the disease.
The event over the past 15 years has raised close to $1-million for research for a cure or treatment.
“We have three clinical trials ongoing,” Van Hierden said.
With its similarities to other diseases, all the research into A-T pays benefits in other areas
Registration gets under way at 10 a.m., with the walks starting at 11 a.m. People can choose from routes of three, five and 10 kilometres.
There is a minimum registration fee of $10. People also collect pledges with prizes such as travel vouchers and bikes awarded to those who raise the most money.
A buffet lunch and post-walk party will get under way at 11:30 a.m. There will be a bake sale and a silent auction to raise more money.
“It’s a fun event and we hope to make it even more so this year,” Van Hierden said.
The need for continued support of the A-T Walk for a Cure was reinforced this year.
“We’ve got two newly-diagnosed families in Alberta,” “The newly-diagnosed families are appreciative that we have kept going with the fund-raising and the research. It’s given them quicker diagnosis and better support.
“They get access to research data and medical data that they need to deal day-to-day with the symptoms of A-T.”
The Van Hierdens have had strong support over the years from individuals and businesses.
Many of the corporate sponsors, whose names are listed on the A-T Walk for a Cure T-shirt, have supported the event in each of its 15 years.
“We’re very thankful to the corporate sponsors and the community sponsors for supporting and working with us,” Van Hierden said.
The organizers are planning to make the 2013 A-T Walk for a Cure special in order to mark the 15th anniversary.
“Even for me, it’s amazing,” Conrad Van Hierden said of the walk’s continued success. “We’re looking forward to seeing everybody out there.”

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