With over 200 student organizations on the UMD campus, many of them go above and beyond to raise awareness for certain diseases or conditions such as cancer, heart disease, and even a rare illness known as Huntington’s disease. Consisting of only three committed people, The UMD Huntington’s Disease Group is a student-led organization that started completely from scratch. The students work with the Huntington Disease Society of America, which mainly helps raise money for research and spread awareness of Huntington’s disease.
UMD senior Alex Fisher is the main leader of this small on-campus organization. He has volunteered at many different events and became passionate about this particular organization when he volunteered at the Huntington’s disease walk/run event.
“Last summer I just volunteered a lot at different one-day events because they were interesting,” Fisher said. “I volunteered at this walk/run and met a lot of cool people who shared their personal stories about how Huntington’s affected their lives.”
After this specific event, Fisher became passionate about raising awareness for Huntington’s disease on the UMD campus. Starting from scratch, Alex worked with the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and began a student-led organization on the UMD campus.
Fellow member and UMD student Alison Osowski had a different reason for joining the organization.
“My uncle died from this disease, which kind of fueled my desire to help out with this organization,” Osowski said. “If he wouldn’t have been affected by this, I wouldn’t have even known what Huntington’s was.”
The students were able to organize a Team Hope Walk and 5k to spread awareness of the disease.
The race/walk will take place on Saturday, Sept. 28, and registration will begin at 9 a.m. at the Lakewalk in Canal Park. The race itself will begin at 10 a.m. and runs along Lake Superior, which makes for beautiful scenery for the runners/walkers.
Along with the help from the sponsors of this race, including the Huntington’s Disease Society of America and national sponsor Moving Together, the students also give a huge amount of credit to Amanda Figsta for their success.
Figasta is the sponsorship chair and co-leader of the walk/run. Figasta has been personally touched by the disease and helped these students organize the walk/run and arrange some sponsorships.
“I’d like to give a huge shout out to Amanda Figsta,” Fisher said. “She’s been a huge help with all of this. She has a personal connection to this disease and organization, and has been a critical part to our success.”
So far, the students have raised over $1,600 just from sponsorship for this event, not including the actual amount that will be raised from the race. They will be accepting donations at the race, though the event is free for everyone.
There will also be prizes given out at the race, including a $50 gift card to Holiday, a $30 gift card to Grandma’s and a raffle for a one-night stay at the American Inn’s Jacuzzi suite.
“The main goal of the event is simply to have a good time,” Fisher said. “It’s always a cool experience to meet new people and learn their own personal stories. You always meet lots of cool people. One year I met a lady who walked at numerous of these races and every year she brings her wiener dog with her.”
To find out more information about this event, students can contact Alex Fisher at firstname.lastname@example.org. To register before the walk/run, visit the Huntington’s Disease Society of America website, www.hdsa.org/thwduluth. There will also be on-site registration.
BY CASSIE SWANSON