750 miles to fight Huntington’s Disease

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Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick Gary Heiman (right) of West Jefferson is training for a 750-mile bike ride to benefit the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. His training partner is Joe Price (left), a resident of Lake Choctaw.
Messenger photo by Kristy Zurbrick
Gary Heiman (right) of West Jefferson is training for a 750-mile bike ride to benefit the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. His training partner is Joe Price (left), a resident of Lake Choctaw.

(Posted May 15, 2014)

By Kristy Zurbrick, Staff Writer

Gary Heiman, 75, says his legs aren’t what they used to be, but they’re still good for riding a bicycle 750 miles in 13 days to benefit the Huntington’s Disease Society of America (HDSA).

For the fourth year running, the West Jefferson resident is participating in an annual cycling marathon to increase public awareness of Huntington’s disease and raise money to fight the disease. His wife, Barb, is a social worker with the HDSA Central Ohio chapter and the Ohio State University Center of Excellence.

“This year, we’re following the Dixie Highway, riding from Sault Ste. Marie in Michigan to Louisville, Kentucky, where the annual HDSA convention is being held,” Heiman said. The ride runs from June 7 to June 19.

Despite challenging weather this winter and spring, Heiman said he is doing his best to prepare. Each year, he recruits a training partner to make the miles go by more quickly. This year, that partner is Joe Price of Lake Choctaw, a retired lieutenant colonel with the United States Air Force. The two met at the American Legion post in West Jefferson. Heiman also was a member of the Air Force.

“Joe has a wide repertoire of subjects to talk about. Having somebody to talk to, you don’t tire as fast,” Heiman said. While Price isn’t joining him for the actual ride, Heiman said his friend’s company has been invaluable during the preparation period.

The lead-up to the ride also includes fundraising. Last year, Heiman raised over $5,000 in donations. His goal for this year: “As much as I can get,” he said. He thanked Madison County residents for their generous support in past years. He noted that 100 percent of all donations go to the association. Bike ride participants pay for their own expenses.

The HDSA “Bike for the Cure” rides began 16 years ago. In that time, participants have raised over $600,000 for family services and research to find a cure.

To make a donation to “Bikin’ the Dixie Highway for Huntington’s Disease,” go to www.firstgiving.com/bikeforcure or contact Gary Heiman directly at (614) 879-9069 or gary@theheimans.com.

Huntington’s Disease

Huntington’s disease (HD) is a neurological, genetic disease passed from parent to child through a mutation on the fourth chromosome. Each child of an HD parent has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the gene which causes degeneration of brain cells, resulting in the loss of ability to walk, think, talk, reason and swallow.

Onsset generally appears at midlife but, in some cases, occurs in childhood or in old age. The disease profoundly affects the lives of entire families as the person with HD becomes totally dependent on others for his or her care.

About 1 in 10,000 American have the disease. Since 1993, a genetic test has been available to those at risk to determine if they carry the HD gene. The test does not indicate at what age the disease will develop.

For more information about HD, go to www.hdsa.org.

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