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By Rich Harbert (rharbert@wickedlocal.com)

This year’s fourth annual Team Hope walk will be a virtual event, not tied to time or place.


PLYMOUTH – The blue wave of hope for Huntington’s disease sufferers will not surge across the waterfront this weekend. But supporters of the annual event to fight what has been called the cruelest of diseases will press on on their own.

This year’s fourth annual Team Hope walk will be a virtual event, not tied to time or place. Those willing to help can walk anywhere they like – in their backyard, a park, a track or even on their treadmill – in hopes of finding a cure.

“Wherever you feel comfortable,” Virginia Goolkasian, regional director of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, said. “It might feel like you’re walking alone, but you’re not. You’re walking together. Everyone’s just walking all over the county, all over New England and all over America.”

One man who already completed his virtual walk in Connecticut set the bar high. He stayed in his yard, but set up start and finish lines and water stops for the journey.

Plymouth has hosted an annual Team Hope walk along the waterfront since 2017. The walk originally started and ended near Plymouth Rock, but since moved its focus north. This year’s walk was scheduled to start Saturday morning at Nelson Park and proceed up and down the rail trail in North Plymouth.

Last year, more than 130 men, women and children participated in the event, which raises awareness about the disease while raising money to help find a cure.

Huntington’s disease is a fatal genetic disorder that causes the progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain. It deteriorates a person’s physical and mental abilities usually during their prime working years and has no cure.

Every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene that causes the disease. There are approximately 30,000 symptomatic Americans and more than 200,000 at-risk of inheriting the disease. The symptoms of HD are described as having ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases – simultaneously.

Last year’s event raised more than $12,000 for the cause, which funds research as well as a variety of supports for families living with the disease. The Huntington’s Disease Society of America offers social workers and support groups for families, specialty clinics in two Boston hospitals, public education days, help for caregivers and a disability rights attorney.

The Society just held its annual national conference virtually and shared exciting news about clinic trials for a cure. Goolkasian said there is great hope that onset of the disease can be delayed until late in life if not cured completely within a couple of years.

“We’re definitely making a lot more progress than ever before,” she said.

The annual walks usually bring families struggling with the disease together and allow them to find strength in solidarity.

While that will not happen on the waterfront this weekend, the work continues. And the beauty of a virtual event is the open-ended timeline.

While the coronavirus emergency has taken its toll on the economy and the ability of smaller businesses to offer traditional support, larger institutions are still helping out, and, as the economy recovers, supporters can join in on their own schedule.

“People can be doing this all summer or fall – taking a walk on the beach or in the woods for Huntington’s disease. We’re hoping that as things improve and people return to jobs the walk will continue and increase those numbers, because it’s absolutely needed to continue our mission,” Goolkasian said.

Registering for the virtual walk is free and everyone who raises $100 gets a Team Home 2020 T-shirt. Additional prizes, including water bottles, are available for larger donations. For more information about the virtual walk, visit www.hdsa.org/thwcapecod.

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