BEEKMANTOWN - When Kate Duprey was planning an event in memory of her late husband, she had no idea how many people would show up. However, when the day came for the First Annual Scleroderma Walk in Memory of Randy Duprey, she was pleasantly surprised.
More than 300 people participated in the walk from Beekmantown Town Hall to Beekmantown High School last Sunday, June 14. That amount of people was staggering to Duprey, who was visibly moved by the crowd.
"I don't have any words," Duprey said as her eyes panned the sea of people. "When I looked down and saw the parking lot was full, I just thought it was unbelievable. We're thrilled about the turnout, especially because we have two local women here who are battling scleroderma."
The women, Wendy Faubert of West Chazy and Julie Mooso of Champlain, both understand the struggle Duprey's husband went through, and recounted how every day is another day of living with a challenging and very tiring autoimmune disease.
When diagnosed with the disease last November, Mooso said she was taken by total surprise.
"I didn't have a clue what it was," she said.
Neither did Faubert when she was diagnosed with scleroderma three years ago.
"I went on-line and did what the doctors say not to do - I checked it out," said Faubert. "It was old information I was reading at the time and some of the stuff I read was scary."
The two weren't alone in not knowing the facts about scleroderma, both said. When speaking with others, many were unaware the disease existed, let alone how serious it is.
"Everyone needs to learn more about it," Mooso said. "So many people know nothing about this disease. There are people who have been diagnosed with it but they're afraid to talk about it because they're afraid to think about the future and what's going to happen."
Events like last Sunday's walk are critical in not only raising money for scleroderma research and treatment, but in raising awareness as well, said Mooso.
"I think this is great," Mooso said of the event. "Making more people aware is very important."
"Something good's going to come from this," Faubert said of the walk.
And, something good already has come. Duprey stated at last count, the event raised $10,500 from pledges and donations. Another $1,000 is expected to come in from the corporate offices of Best Buy, which pledged a $1,000 donation if 10 of its employees participated in the walk.
Alex J. Matich, development director for the Tri-state chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation, said he was impressed with the amount being raised and by the number of people who turned out for the event in support of Randy Duprey and his family.
"This is just fantastic. I've been to several walks and not all of them have support like this one," said Matich. "Kate and her crew did a marvelous job. This speaks to their dedication and the dedication of the North Country."
"The more people we can get aware of the disease the better, because it's still a relatively unknown disease," he added.
For more information about scleroderma, visit the Scleroderma Foundation's Web site, www.scleroderma.org, and for more information about the First Annual Scleroderma Walk in Memory of Randy Duprey, visit Kate Duprey's Web site at www.thedupreyfamily.blogspot.com.