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The Suburbanite
  • Walkathon 'energizes' local family's fight against Mitochondrial Disease

  • The annual Energy for Life Walkathon to benefit the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation is scheduled for Oct. 4, but preparations for the event are already underway.
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  • The annual Energy for Life Walkathon to benefit the United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation is scheduled for Oct. 4, but preparations for the event are already underway.
    Karen Ricci is the chairperson for this year's event. She is the mother of Joey Ricci, who is a member of the Springfield Sparkles, the special needs cheer squad for Springfield Local Schools.
    Because mitochondrial disease is still unrecognized by the government, the walk is aimed at spreading awareness about the illness and raising funds for research.
    “They didn’t start diagnosing this until the early 1990s and putting the name mitochondrial disease (to it). But now they’re linking it to other things like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, andtype-2 Diabetes, so they’re saying we should have national funding,” Ricci said. “We go to Capitol Hill nonstop and we put acts in Congress asking for funding. If we can figure out how to keep the mitochondria functioning with energy levels up, we can prevent these other diseases from being so bad.”
    Mitochondrial disease has become a huge part of Ricci’s life through her son and she is hoping others are able to help and support this cause. The mitochondria supply the body with 90 percent of the energy it needs and the disease affects one in 4,000 newborns each year. For researchers, statistics are hard to find because many peoplereach adulthood without ever being diagnosed or end up misdiagnosed their entire lives.
    “(For many), this walk is in memory of,” Ricci said. “We’ve gone to funerals because old research has said that they don’t go to teenage years. So to go to those funerals is heartbreaking, but their families still come and that’s their remembrance of them and they don’t want other children or adults to pass away because the funding’s not there.”
    This year, the walk will be held at Lock 3 in Akron. Registration will begin 9 a.m. and the 1-mile walk will begin at 10 a.m. There is no fee and Ricci encourages people to come to the walk and learn more about mitochondrial disease in hopes of one day finding a cure. Volunteers are welcome and Ricci is hoping individuals build teams and raise money for research through their churches, sports teams, clubs, and friends.
    “Nobody wants their child to have special needs but you learn over the years you’re given them for a reason,” Ricci said. “We’re the lucky ones. We were picked for that reason and you can only be as strong as your child. This is who I am, this is my child. Come meet us if you need to, but we need your help in this.”