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Annual fundraiser will go on as planned with coronavirus precautions

ADRIAN — This year’s installment of the annual Team Hope Walk of Adrian will still go on as planned, but certain safety measures will be applied to the event in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Team Hope Walk will take place between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22, at Trestle Park in Adrian. This is the seventh year for the event, which raises awareness of Huntington’s disease, a fatal genetic disorder with no cure that causes a progressive breakdown of nerve cells in the brain.

Team Hope Walk has not been canceled or switched over to the virtual world because of the pandemic. It will still be held in person, but social distancing and the wearing of face masks will be required.

Other portions of the undraiser have been adapted as well.

Participants are being encouraged to not gather in large groups — even with the event being held outdoors. A meal will not be provided prior to the walking, and a live, in-person auction will not be held, either. That and a 50/50 raffle will both be held virtually. Winners of the auction and the 50/50 raffle will be notified.

“Our event is on, but things will look different,” Bill Sprow, organizer of the event, said. “COVID is going to change the pace of our walk this year, as it has done for nearly every local event. This year, we will be a lot more reserved. There will be no interfacing or touching of people either.”

In a sense, Sprow said, this year’s walk to bring awareness to Huntington’s disease can be completed individually, if people would feel more comfortable doing so.

“People can walk at any pace they wish,” he said. “Normally we complete the walk as a group, but we cannot do that this year.”

The event is not a way to measure speed, agility or stamina. Sprow said being there and supporting the cause makes everybody a winner.

“If you walk for 15 minutes and then head out, that’s fine with me,” he said. “All of our participants coming out show their support of the cause and they increase knowledge of the disease. Anybody that’s lived through Huntington’s disease can spot the red flags of it in a heartbeat.”

Registration for the walk is free of charge and, due to COVID-19, there won’t be morning-of registration at Trestle Park. Those who would like a T-shirt from the event can contribute a donation of $100 to the fundraiser. Donations can be made possible online at hdsa.org/thwadrian.

The walking route will begin at Trestle Park and work its way to the grounds of Adrian High School. From there, walkers head down to McKenzie Street and to Riverside Avenue, before heading back to the park. Decorations promoting the walk will line the route.

Typically, an average walking event for Team Hope Walk Adrian brings out about 100 participants. Sprow said he expects that number to be down this year due to the pandemic.

The Adrian Parks and Recreation Department has noted that it only wants a maximum of 100 people in Trestle Park. The Huntington’s Disease Society of America does not want that many people congregating together at this time.

Regardless of how many people show up, Sprow said Huntington’s disease is not taking a break because of the pandemic.

“While COVID-19 has disrupted our lives, Huntington’s disease continues to disrupt the lives of many families near and dear to us each and every day,” he said. “Your support means so much to me, but more important, it means the world to the families we serve here in Michigan.”

The state of Michigan has 10 support groups related to finding a cure for Huntington’s disease, which is the most of any state. Sprow said several pharmaceutical companies are in the process of running trials for a possible cure. It will be quite some time, however, until the cure is actually put onto the market.

According to information from the Huntington’s Disease Society of America, more than 30,000 people in the United States are currently diagnosed with the disease. More than 200,000 individuals are at risk. Being a genetic-only disease, there is a 50/50 chance for children being at risk of having the disease if one of their parents had it.

In Michigan, the total population of people affected by Huntington’s disease is more than 9,000, according to Matthew Santamaria, communications coordinator for the HDSA.

Sprow, 70, has dealt with the disease twice. He lost his wife, Christine, to Huntington’s disease in 2001, and his daughter Kellie died from the disease in 2016 — 20 days after his retirement.

“When you come down with it, there is absolutely no escaping it,” Sprow said.

Sprow compared the effects of Huntington’s disease to that of Parkinson’s disease, but on steroids. Besides loss of movement, those affected by the disease also can experience a loss of memory and motor control.

“It’s a terrible disease,” he said. “It’s like nothing you have ever seen before.”

This year, Team Hope Walk Adrian is looking to raise more than $14,000. Last year, the fundraiser generated a little more than $13,000.

Money raised from the event benefits efforts to find a cure. Funds also benefit the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.

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