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Women on ride to combat Huntington's
By Ben Broeren

Not everyone bikes 1,500 miles to take a stand. But two Colorado women are doing just that against Huntington's disease, and two other women who have relatives with the disease are joining them.

Marie Nemec and Charlotte Reicks are biking from Kearney, Neb., to St. Louis - with stops in South Dakota, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois - to raise awareness and money to find a cure.

Madison's Shana Martin and Sherri Kole, from Lewiston, Idaho, joined Nemec and Reicks in the "Midwest Meander for Huntington's Disease" through Wisconsin this week. They will stop in Milwaukee this weekend for the 21st annual Huntington Disease Society of America convention, where medical personnel and support groups will gather.

"The convention is a great resource for families affected by HD," Reicks said.

Martin joined the group in Eau Claire last weekend and is riding for her mother, who has been dealing with the genetic disorder for 19 years. The four riders arrived in Madison from Portage on Tuesday and left today for Waukesha.

"Huntington's disease brings strong people together," Martin said.

Martin, a spokesperson for the national Huntington's organization, said she and her father visit her mother at Ingleside Nursing Home in Mount Horeb every week, often to take her on outings.

Martin said she educates people on the disease and works with the Huntington's youth alliance.

"I work with kids who have had to deal with affected parents, much like myself," said Martin, who says she has a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disease. "I want to help those still living with it."

Kole, who joined Nemec and Reicks last week in Iowa City, has a 32-year-old son who tested positive for the Huntington's gene.

An avid bicyclist, Kole has ridden three times in the "STP Classic" from Seattle to Portland, Ore., to raise funds for a cure for the disease.

"When I saw what Marie and Charlotte were doing, I had to join them," Kole said.

Reicks estimated that their eighth bike ride will raise about $100,000 for research through donations and T-shirt sales. In past years they have raised up to $130,000.

The four women ride between 55 and 60 miles most days, Nemec said. "We don't just ride for exercise," Nemec said. "We want to help people."

Huntington's causes degeneration of brain cells, resulting in inability to walk, think, talk, reason and swallow. Onset generally occurs in middle age. About 1 in 10,000 Americans have the disease. At present, there are medications to help control symptoms, but no cure.

Published: June 7, 2006

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