By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Region – On Sunday, May 7, the 15th annual Worcester Stepping Out to Cure Scleroderma Walk will be held at the Bancroft School. This year’s walk will be in memory of Mary Ann Persson and Vivian Killoran, who were members of the Worcester Scleroderma Support Group and lost their battle with this devastating disease.
Fifteen years ago, Eric Magnuson started this walk for his mom, Deb. She is a member of this group and has helped coordinate this year’s continued efforts. In addition, the Worcester Scleroderma Support Group of the Scleroderma Foundation New England (SFNE) is organizing the walk.
“When my son Eric started the Walk 15 years ago, his purpose was twofold,” Deb said. “He wanted to raise money to help find a cure and raise awareness. We started with under 100 walkers to now over 300. Raising awareness has been the greatest reward!”
Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that is progressive. Its name translates to mean “hard skin,” and while it does tighten the skin, often the internal organs become damaged. The body’s immune system attacks its own tissue. There is currently no known cure, but the hope is that with continued research efforts under way, causes and a cure for this debilitating disease will be found.
“This fundraiser is a great way for members of the surrounding communities, family and friends to help support a very worthy cause,” said Rebecca Dube, SFNE office manager. “There are so many people who volunteer their time, money and assistance to help make this event a huge success and we are so appreciative. Some of the big underlying sponsors include Actelion Pharmaceuticals, U.S. Bayer HealthCare and Raeta Pharmaceuticals.”
In addition, each year the sophomore students at the Bancroft School use this event as a class project. Additional faculty and students enjoy their involvement as well.
The walk, a 5K, is a little over three miles and will encompass Indian Lake. Since this is the 15th year, there will be some special events to commemorate this milestone. The Jazziak Dance Troop will perform and there will be several kids’ activities like face painting, games and more.
Following the walk, lunch will be provided by sponsors Papa John’s on West Boylston Street in Worcester, Coney Island Hot Dogs, Polar Bevarages, Panera Bread of Worcester and Bagel Inn.
“This is such a devastating disease and it affects individuals differently,” Dube explained. “It’s called an ‘orphan disease’ because there is currently no government subsidy. There are grassroots efforts that come from dedicated volunteers. The support groups are also crucial.”
She noted that the New England Chapter has support groups in Worcester, Fall River, Vermont, Maine and New Hampshire. There are 22 chapters nationwide.
“Most groups are smaller in number but offer the members’ vital support,” she said.
On the day of this event, registration opens at 10 a.m. with the walk beginning at noon. Those wishing to participate can sign up as a team or an individual.
To register, visit www.scleroderma.org/steppingoutworcester or call the SFNE office at 978-887-0658.
The Bancroft School is located at 110 Shore Dr., Worcester. Questions can be emailed to [email protected].