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A-T Walk, bike rides support important research

Runners, walkers and cyclists will join the quest to find a cure for a rare genetic disease.
The 18th annual A-T Walk and Bike for a Cure is Saturday, June 18 at Hilltop Dairy north of Fort Macleod.
“We are getting amazing support from Fort Macleod and the communities around southern Alberta,” organizer Conrad Van Hierden said.
The event includes a five-kilometre walk and 50- and 83-kilometre bike rides.
Participants collect pledges in advance, with all money going to fund research projects to find a cure or treatment for A-T.
Conrad and his wife Rhonda began fund-raising for the A-T Children’s Project after their son Randy was diagnosed with the deadly disease.
Ataxia-Telangiectasia, or A-T as it is more commonly known, is a rare genetic disease that attacks children, eroding their motor skills, compromising their immune system and making them predisposed to cancers.
When the Van Hierdens first started fund-raising for the A-T Children’s Project, little was known about the biological pathways underlying their son Randy’s disease.
Parents of A-T children had nowhere to turn for expert care, knowing only their kids would lose their ability to walk, read, write, talk, and eat.
They also knew their children would have a high risk of deadly cancers and would experience weakened immune systems.
Money raised through the A-T Walk and other events has allowed the A-T Children’s Project to organize scientific conferences, fund research projects around the world, create tissue banks, establish a dedicated team of specialists at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and orchestrate clinical trials for testing treatments
The A-T Children’s Project has recruited world-class researchers and made major strides toward potential treatments that may ultimately include gene therapy, reengineered stem cells, and using electrical stimulation to correct disrupted brain circuitry.
Progress has been made in extending the average lifespan of children with A-T.
Research on A-T also applies to diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, leukemia and diabetes.
Although it is taking longer than hoped to find a cure or treatment for A-T, the Van Hierden family and their supporters remain committed to the cause.
Registration for the bike ride starts at 7:30 a.m. June 18 and the ride gets under way at 8 a.m.
Registration for the walk starts at 10 a.m. with people heading out on the route at 11:30 a.m.
A buffet lunch of barbecued hamburgers, salads, ice cream and more follows the walk and bike rides.
There will be a silent auction, bake sale, pony rides, petting zoo, bouncy castles and candy toss.
For information or to contribute to the A-T Walk contact Conrad or Rhonda Van Hierden at 403-634-2625 or conradvh@telus.net or rhondavh@gmail.com, or Katie Forster at 403-715-3087 or atcpcanada@gmail.com.
For information about the bike ride contact Brendan Grant at 403-627-8793 or bgrant8@telusplanet.net.

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