By Frank Lewis
Some stood under their umbrellas. Some under a makeshift canopy while others yet just braved the raindrops, and they did it for a disease most people in America have ever heard of and they were ready to walk to bring awareness to Alpha-1, a disease that affects about 1 in 1,500 to 3,500 individuals.
“Today is our first ever River Walk here in Portsmouth,” Amanda Holsinger, support group leader for Strickly Alphas (named for founder Jesse Strickland), said. “We’re trying to raise money to find a cure for Alpha-1. Alpha-1 is a genetic lung deficiency that a lot of times gets misdiagonsed as asthma. So we’re just trying to do our part to raise money to find a cure.”
The group had gathered at the rear of the Scioto County Welcome Center where Steve Free sang his Portsmouth, Ohio anthem, and folks pored over crafts.
“”We have people come from Kentucky and West Virginia and Ohio and there is only two (support groups) in Ohio and the other is in Columbus,” Holsinger said. “So we’re the southern Ohio area. But there is a national foundation and we’re a part of that.”
One of the people who figured prominently into Saturday’s event was Kevin Kennedy a recent recipient of a liver transplant.
“I had my transplant on June 12 of this year and I had it done at Ohio State,” Kennedy said. “I seem to be doing real well. The doctors are all pleased. All my numbers are looking good.”
Kennedy said it will take about a year to fully recuperate, but his heart was in Saturday’s event.
“I was diagnosed with Alpha-1 Antitrypsin Deficiency in 2010 and come to find out, after my transplant, they said that was the main cause of my liver failure,” Kennedy said. “So I came down here with Jesse (Strickland) and we’re just trying to get the word out that people need to get checked because I was a healthy 43 year old male and the next thing I knew I got sick and had cirrhosis and it was brought on by Alpha-1.”
The rain did not dampen the spirits of the participants.
“It is not going to slow us down,” Holsinger said. “We’ve got plenty of people. We’re excited about those that came out.”
“If they would like to contribute to Alpha-1, they can go online to the alpha-1 foundation and there’s a link to that.” Holsinger said. “November is actually Alpha-1 Awareness Month. Governor (John) Kasich just signed the bill.” Holsinger said they also have a Facebook page – “Strickly alphas”.
One person everyone was missing was Freda Hardin of South Shore, Kentucky. Freda was unable to attend as she is waiting for a lung transplant.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewis.
Singer/songwriter Steve Free entertains members and supporters of the Alpha-1 foundation. The Strickly Alphas support group held a walk to raise funds and awareness Saturday morning from the Welcome Center in Portsmouth.
People waiting to walk in support of Alpha-1 awareness try to fight the rain Saturday morning at the Welcome Center in Portsmouth.