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A-T Walk for a Cure raises money and hope

A-T Walk for a Cure

Crystal and Rob Olive and their son Alex and Abe and Anna Penner and their son Diedrich, and led the A-T Walk for a Cure. The boys have the rare genetic disease A-T.

The 15th annual A-T Walk for a Cure raised about $55,000 Saturday for research for a cure and treatment for a rare genetic disease.
Just as importantly, the event that attracted about 350 people to Hilltop Dairy created hope for people whose children have A-T.
“We can hardly believe that there are so many people who do care,” Abe Penner said. “We felt that it was just us.”
Penner and his wife Anne brought their three-year-old son Diedrich to the A-T Walk for a Cure.
It was a stunning blow for the Penners in December when Diedrich was diagnosed with ataxia-telangiectasia, or A-T as it is commonly known.
A-T is described as having cystic fibrosis, cerebral palsy, immune deficiencies, muscular dystrophy and cancer all rolled into one.
A-T targets children, who gradually lose their motor skills and often do not live past their teens.
To see 350 people rallying in support of a cure that will benefit Diedrich provided the Penners with new-found hope.
“This is a great experience,” Abe Renner said. “It really makes us feel better.”
A-T Walk for a Cure organizer Conrad Van Hierden said the hope the event generates is every bit as important as the money.
“That’s what the families need,” Van Hierden said. “The research is going to make a difference. The hope is what motivates us to keep going.”
People collected pledges or just made financial contributions Saturday morning prior to heading out on a walk into the countryside north of Fort Macleod.
Between 200 and 250 of the people at the A-T Walk chose routes of three, five and 10-kilometres, with more people arriving later for the after-walk party.
The silent auction, which included everything from sports memorabilia to tools, raised about $7,500 to boost the total to close to $55,000, which is on par with last year.
“We always get more coming in later,” Van Hierden said. “The support is just phenomenal.”
Researchers have recently changed their focus from discovering what causes children with A-T to lose their brain cells.
Instead, researchers are now concentrating on slowing the speed at which the brain cells die.
To do that, researchers are exploring antioxidants, anti-flammatory drugs, growth factors, gene therapy, anti-radiation drugs and other drugs that might help cells compensate for the missing A-T protein.
Last November the A-T Children’s Project, which gets the money raised Saturday to fund research, brought together international experts in neuroscience and clinical neurologists to discuss brain circuitry and potential treatment.
The A-T Clinical Centre at Johns Hopkins continues to give expert evaluations and advice to families around the world. The clinic operates totally on money from the A-T Children’s Project.

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