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By Ashley McCarthy (amccarty@cmpapers.com)

ABERDEEN, Ohio — Aberdeen’s second annual Team Hope Walk/Run to combat Huntington’s Disease will take place this year on May 2.

The event was spearheaded last year by former Aberdeen resident Nicole Gilbert, and was a remarkably heartwarming success with its totaled fund-raising of $25,000.

According to the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s website, HD is described as “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. HD is known as the quintessential family disease because every child of a parent with HD has a 50/50 chance of inheriting the faulty gene. Today, there are approximately 41,000 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 simultaneously.

For Gilbert, what started out as a simple endeavor for family participation grew into an inspiring need to raise local awareness.

“The HDSA has Team Hope walks all over the United States. Originally, I was like, ‘our whole family should go to do one of these walks that they’re doing’ and I was looking up walks local to our area, but there was nothing under three hours away. I was like, that’s crazy,” said Gilbert.

Though her reason for wanting to get her and her family involved did not just stem from a charitable standpoint. It was a personal — Gilbert’s mother has HD.

“In the area of Aberdeen, Maysville and Ripley area — my mom has Huntington’s, and every time we go anywhere, nobody really knew what Huntington’s was. They’re like, oh, what is that? And you have to kind of explain it to them. Even in like doctor’s offices, or if we went into an ER, there’s been times I’ve had to take my mom in there and I say oh, she has Huntington’s, and they’re like, what’s that? So that was kind of just the light bulb for me. People need to know what this is. It was very personal,” said Gilbert.

It was then that Gilbert decided to bring the Hope Walk to them.

“So from there, I thought well, maybe we should just start one here. At first I didn’t know how great of a response it would be, but I mean, our local community really kicked into gear. This year they have too, we’ve done amazing,” said Gilbert.

Growing up, Gilbert reminisced when HD was an even more enigmatic disease.

“My grandmother had HD. We just never really even knew anybody else in the whole world had HD, that it was in any other family. Being young minded, in high school, when my grandmother was getting sick, I just never realized — truthfully, back then, there wasn’t even a designated name for HD. It came a few years after, they really figured out what it is, what causes it, then my mom started to get sick — it’s genetic,” said Gilbert.

Two years ago, Gilbert was tested for the gene that carries HD. It was positive.

“Does that mean that I would onset like my mother? No, there’s a lot of people that have HD that could go into their 60s and never have anything, but science tells you that most likely you’re going to follow the path of your parent. What really fueled my thing with this is — I have four kids. So now that I know I carry the gene, my kids are also at risk for carrying the gene,” she said.

While as a parent, that scares her, Gilbert has found power in knowledge.

“You know I didn’t look into any of this until after my 10 year old was born, I was just — I was always too scared to really look into it too far. Though once I did, I just started seeking answers. I gotta figure out what I can do for them from this point forward, to make everything available to them. Just seeking out answers that our family really didn’t do before opens it up for not only me, but our entire family,” said Gilbert.

People can register for the Team Hope Walk until March 30.

“We have online registration, everyone who registers before March 30 is guaranteed their T-shirt size, breakfast. We also have people who just arrive the day of — that’s first come first serve,” said Gilbert.

Registration is $25, and includes a t-shirt, breakfast and goody bag. On May 2, day-of registration starts at 9 a.m., with the walk/run starting at 10 a.m. Between 9 a.m. and noon attendees can also participate in a silent auction.

Persons interested in registering for the walk/run can go to www.hdsa.org/thwaberdeen.

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