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Several hundred people show support for third annual Walk with Tori for scleroderma research

September 08, 2013|By DON AINES | dona@herald-mail.com
  • Tori Anderson thanks all of the participants involved Sunday afternoon prior to the 3rd annual "Walk with Tori."
By Joe Crocetta / Staff Photographer

Led by people suffering from scleroderma, a few hundred people stepped out Sunday afternoon for the third annual Walk with Tori, and among them was Bryant Davis.

“I couldn’t help my mom when I was 9 years old, so I figure I can help someone now,” said Davis, whose mother Patricia died of the disease in 1963.

Toward that end, the Bunker Hill, W.Va., man already held a private fundraiser through which family and friends raised about $1,600. The theme, he said, was “Remembering 50 Years Ago,” with a scavenger hunt and trivia contest related to the year his mother died.

The disease was difficult to diagnose more than 50 years ago, and there was not much in the way of treatment, Davis said. His mother was 34 years old when she died.

In its first two years, the Walk with Tori raised more than $78,000 for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Scleroderma Center for research into the cause, treatment and cure for scleroderma, a disease Tori Anderson said she was diagnosed with on Valentine’s Day 2008.

Anderson said she wanted Sunday’s walk at Doub’s Woods Park in Hagerstown to bring the three-year total to more than $100,000.

That goal was reached, according to Debbie Flowers, a close friend of Anderson’s who serves on the committee that organized the walk.

Sunday evening, Flowers said the walk raised about $32,000, including about $12,000 in donations made before the event by several companies and individuals from the Tri-State area.

“One of the things that I found that really touched my heart is ... everywhere we went for a donation for the silent auction, the answer was ‘yes,’” Flowers said.

Because of the disease, which causes thickening and hardening of the skin and — in Anderson’s systemic type — damage to internal organs, she ended her singing career with Tori Anderson & The Possum Holler Band, though she performed a couple of songs at the end of Sunday’s event.

Anderson said she continues to work as a radio personality at 104.7 WAYZ in Greencastle, Pa.

“The only thing for me to do is try and fix this for somebody,” Anderson said before the walk commenced. “It may not be in my lifetime but, hopefully, it will be good for someone.

“We came here today because we all want the same thing. We want a cure and we want peace,” Anderson told participants just before the walk began.

Anyone could walk for free, Flowers said, but those who made a contribution of $25 or more received a Walk with Tori T-shirt. There also were raffle tickets being sold and a silent auction, with items donated from as far away as Florida, she said.

People also donated blood to be used by the scleroderma center for research into the disease. Donations were taken only from those who did not have a “first-degree relative” — parent, sibling or child — with the disease, said Dr. Thomas Medsger, director of the scleroderma center.

“I took one for the team,” said Kelsi Waltemire after she gave blood for the research program.

She has worked with Anderson at WAYZ for about four years, she said.

That research has borne fruit over the decades, said Medsger, leading to earlier diagnosis and treatment, and a longer prognosis for survival.

“I think the crucial thing is that we know more at the molecular level what is going on with the disease” and how it causes damage to the vascular system, hardening of skin and other tissues, and activation of the immune system, Medsger said.

While scleroderma is actually a group of diseases, the overall survival rate is now 80 percent after 10 years, Medsger said.

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