Vern Barrett isn’t a racecar driver but he is the driving force behind an annual fundraiser for Huntington’s disease services and research.
Barrett, who lives in The Maples, has organized the Huntington Indy Go-Kart Challenge each September for 23 years at Thunder Rapids Amusement Park (5058 Portage Ave.) in Headingley.
"Last year we had 33 teams and raised over $20,000 to support Huntington disease services and research. It was a great success!" Barrett said.
This year’s event is set for Sun., Sept. 8 with races at 9 to 11 a.m. and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The Indy Go-Kart Challenge involves teams of up to six drivers with each driver steering their kart around the track for about 20 minutes. There are double karts that can accommodate a driver and a youngster. The cost per team is $360.
An individual who raises $60 will be placed on a team, Barrett said.
"We have prizes, food, a great silent auction, and it’s lots of fun! This is an awesome family-oriented fun event."
The annual fundraiser was started by a Niagara, Ont. volunteer with the Huntington Society of Canada 24 years ago. Barrett said the non-profit organization’s Winnipeg chapter followed suit the next year and thanks Thunder Rapids owners Roy and Verna McGuckin for hosting the event for so many years.
Barrett said his personal involvement with the Huntington Society of Canada and the Winnipeg chapter began 45 years ago as the gene is in his wife’s family.
Huntington’s disease is a hereditary condition in which the brain’s nerve cells gradually break down. This affects physical movements, emotions, and cognitive abilities. It is caused by an inherited defect in a single gene.
"The Winnipeg chapter is totally volunteer-driven and we work hard raising funds to support services for Manitobans dealing with HD in their lives, and to fund research to treat or cure HD. For services, we have the Manitoba Huntington Resource Centre located in the Movement Disorders Clinic in front of Deer Lodge Hospital," Barrett said.
He said ongoing HD research is showing promising results. "Research has been going at an accelerated pace since 2012 when scientists discovered they can reverse HD in mice. Since then, global Huntington research has exploded into a variety of cutting-edge clinical trials that involve gene-splicing, spinal tap injection, deep brain injection, and more."
A Winnipeg Huntington’s disease support group provides the opportunity to meet others, share coping and problem-solving strategies, exchange information about the disease and resources, and mutually support one another. The group is open to individuals with Huntington’s disease, family caregivers, people at risk for the disease, and other family members. The group meets from time to time depending on interests and needs.
Marla Buchholz is a social worker and director of the Manitoba Huntington Disease Resource Centre at 200 Woodlawn St. in Winnipeg. She said the centre has three missions: to advocate and provide education on the disease for Huntington’s disease patients and families; to support research; and to inform and educate health care workers and others who interact with people who have Huntington disease such as employers and government service workers.
"The centre exists to help individuals and families to live with Huntington’s disease," Buchholz said.
She said the Winnipeg centre is unique compared to those found in other Canadian cities as it brings together a team of health care specialists. "It’s a one-stop shop."
The detailed Indy website can be found at www.hdmanitoba.ca. Racers can use the online pledging site for donors’ contributions.
Barrett invites everyone to come by Thunder Rapids on Sept. 8 to cheer on the racers and check out the silent auction.
For more information or to register, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call Barrett at 204-694-1779.
For more information on the Huntington Society of Canada, see https://www.huntingtonsociety.ca
Community journalist — The Headliner
Andrea Geary is the community journalist for The Headliner. Email her at email@example.com Call her at 204-697-7124