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A-T Walk continues search for a cure

A simple walk in the countryside Saturday morning carries a big message of hope for children with a rare genetic disease.
The A-T Walk for a Cure gets under way at 11 a.m. Saturday, June 18 to raise money for research into a cure and treatment for ataxia-telangiectasia.
“I think it speaks to all the children, the parents and the families and anyone whose life is touched by A-T,” Rhonda Van Hierden said. “It’s that love for the children. As parents and family we would just love to find a cure for the children.”
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 Van Hierden’s grandson Alex Olive, who has A-T, will take part in the walk.
Rhonda Van Hierden will display the T-shirts made for every A-T Walk for a Cure.
The A-T Walk for a Cure is live for the first time since 2019, after the COVID-19 pandemic restrictions prevented the event from taking place.
The chance to once again get together, walk for a good cause and then enjoy an after party has people excited.
“I’m noticing that the children are excited, just to bring that awareness out there,” said Rhonda Van Hierden, who with her husband Conrad founded the A-T Walk for a Cure. “The kids are excited about having the walk, and they’re ready to come.”
Rhonda’s daughter, Katie Forster, said the pandemic shutdown was difficult but also proved a learning experience.
Last year, a virtual walk was held to provide people the chance to support the cause.
“I think we learned a lot from not being able to do it,” Forster said of trying to hold the walk virtually. “It was difficult and yet there was some who took it and threw it in a positive spin.”
Those people, many of whom do not normally walk for fitness at home, completed a walk on their own and made a donation to support the A-T Children’s Project.
Organizers are hoping to attract from 200 to 300 people to Hilltop Dairy on Saturday.
“If 50 people show up — because you never know until the day of with the weather — then that’s okay too,” Forster said. “We had nothing for two years.”
Registration gets under way at 10 a.m. Saturday at Hilltop Dairy, which is north of Fort Macleod on Highway 811.
Participants receive a T-shirt for a donation of at least $20.
People will begin walking the two- or five-kilometre route at 11 a.m.
On their return to the farm, participants get to enjoy an after party that will include hamburgers, hot dogs, doughnuts, ice cream, milk, juice and coffee.
There will also be games and activities for children.
A silent auction is being organized to supplement fund-raising.
All the money raised from the A-T Walk for a Cure goes to support research into a cure or treatment for the disease.
Encouraging research is going on at John Hopkins in the U.S. Various trials are under way.
“They are working toward having children live longer and healthier lives,” Forster said.
You can register or donate at 222.atcp.og/walkforacure.ca.