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A-T walk, bike ride raise $65,000 for research

Cyclists set out Saturday morning on 50- and 80-kilometre bike rides.

Cyclists set out Saturday morning on 50- and 80-kilometre bike rides.

Mounted riders took part in the 18th annual A-T Walk for a Cure.

Mounted riders took part in the 18th annual A-T Walk for a Cure.

People head into the country on the 18th annual A-T Walk for a Cure.

People head into the country on the 18th annual A-T Walk for a Cure.

Conrad and Rhonda Van Hierden remain committed to finding a cure for a rare deadly disease that attacks children.
Their faith that a cure for A-T will be found is contagious, and hundreds of people turned out Saturday to raise $65,495 for research.
“We know there’s a cure going to come,” Van Hierden said. “It’s just a matter of putting it all together. I don’t doubt it for a minute.”
The 18th annual A-T Walk and Bike for a Cure was Saturday at Hilltop Dairy north of Fort Macleod.
The event included a five-kilometre walk into the countryside and 50- and 83-kilometre bike rides.
Participants collected pledges in advance, with all money going to fund research projects to find a cure or treatment for A-T.
James Bilstad, who cycled 80 kilometres Saturday, led all fund-raisers with $3,802, topping his goal of raising $3,500.
Alice Van Driesten raised $3,745, Kelly Veldman topped all youths with $920, and Joey Van Rootselaar and Alex Olive raised $810 in the children’s category.
On Saturday as money was still coming in, the total raised was $64,595.
“The key, I think, to maintaining the momentum is education on what research is being done,” Van Hierden said. “Awareness is so important. People know their dollars are going to actual research. We’re a medical research foundation.”
Van Hierden said donors also appreciate that the A-T Walk and bike ride do not have any expenses, so all the money goes to research.
That’s due to strong corporate sponsorship and community support.
The Van Hierdens 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.
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.
“I’m very, very encouraged,” Van Hierden said of the work being done in laboratories.
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.
“Children living with A-T have such a better quality of life, considering what A-T is — it’s still a horrific disease,” Van Hierden said.
Research on A-T also applies to diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, cancer, leukemia and diabetes.
“I think that helps in maintaining the energy. If you’re fighting a losing battle that you have no hope in it’s hard to put the energy behind it,” Van Hierden said. “But because Iā€ˆbelieve wholeheartedly there is a cure, and when we do find it, my goal is that we can develop something to prevent cancer in the process because that’s how intricate the ATM protein is in cancer research.”
“One day we might have a vaccine to prevent cancer using the ATM protein.”
The ATM protein is referred to as the Rosetta stone of DNA repair.
Scientists who are working on clinical trials are positive about the research for a cure.
“I know it’s never soon enough,” Van Hierden said.

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