Tim’s father passed away when we were in the sixth grade. Despite his loss, Tim remained positive. He was not only one of my best friends, but because of this he also became an inspiration to live life to the fullest.
Tim’s father had Huntington’s Disease, a devastating, degenerative brain disorder. HD slowly diminishes the affected person’s physical and mental abilities. Eventually, a person with HD will become will become totally dependent on loved ones and professional care. This downward spiral continues until the patient dies.
Worse still, a parent with the HD gene has a 50-percent chance of passing it to their children. That puts Tim at risk of suffering the same disease as his father. There is no cure.
Tim and I were separated only when we attended different universities. In 2010, during my freshman year at Winona State, I came up with the idea of cycling across the United States as a way to raise HD awareness across the entire country. Within weeks my idea was turning into reality. Friends from universities all over the Midwest pitched in and volunteered to ride with me. We called ourselves “Camp Earth.”
By the end of 2010, we had thousands of supporters all over the world and received thousands of dollars in donations for the Huntington’s Disease Society of America. The pressure was on to make the ride happen.
During the summer of 2011, seven friends and I cycled 4,000 miles westward, from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. Over our two-month journey we raised even more donations and plenty of awareness for HD. Though we completed that ride, Camp Earth was far from over.
This summer, I took cycling for HD across the Atlantic. I spent a month biking around Iceland and then turned south to five northern European countries to raise funds for HDSA and awareness of Huntington’s abroad. Meanwhile, a group of younger students inspired by our 2011 adventure set off on their own bicycle tour around all five of the Great Lakes. All of us funded our own expenses in order to maximize donations to HDSA.
Our tours have created friends and connections that will last a lifetime. I’ve become part of a very active family in the HD community. As for my friend Tim – and many others – they still have a chance of having Huntington’s Disease. Which means Camp Earth still isn’t over. Our work has just begun.