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A-T Walk for a Cure raises $53,500

Hundreds of people turned out for a walk into the countryside to raise $53,500 for research for a cure or treatment of a deadly disease.

The 23rd A-T Walk for a Cure took place at Hilltop Dairy north of Fort Macleod for the first time in two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We really want to keep pressing the research forward, keep pressing for a cure,” Conrad Van Hierden said.

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, took part in the walk.

The skies cleared following overnight thunder showers to provide a warm, sunny day for the event.

Conrad Van Hierden was pleased to see a large turnout of adults and children to support the walk.

The pandemic forced cancellation of the 2020 walk and the 2021 walk was done virtually.

“The reasearch hasn’t stopped even though we went through COVID,” Van Hierden said.

Van Hierden’s daughter Katie Forster said ongoing research funded by the A-T Children’s Project is showing positive results.

Clinical trials are under way at centres such as Johns Hopkins that have shown results in slowing the progress of A-T.

Crystal Olive, mother of Alex Olive, said her son was involved in a drug trial in the U.S. two years ago that was interrupted by the pandemic.

“We’ve seen great improvement,” Crystal Olive said. “Unfortunately, due to COVID we had to end it abruptly.”

Crystal Olive spoke of another trial in Germany involving a supplement that  has been found to slow A-T and reduce eye movement and tremors.

Foothills MP John Barlow helped the family navigate the red tape and obtain the supplement for Alex.

Since starting to use the supplement in August, Alex has found his tremors and eye movement have reduced and his speech has improved.

“This has been a huge help with his quality of life,” Crystal said.

Crystal Olive thanked the people who have continued to support the A-T Walk for a Cure.

“It means a lot to us to see everybody here today. Thank you for sticking with us and coming out and walking.”

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