Several people gathered at the Main Street Park in Escalon on Saturday morning, May 30 to participate in a 5k walk along First Street through the local neighborhood to bring awareness to Tourette’s syndrome.
A nine-year-old named Keegan McCulloch has the disorder and, according to Rick Heflin, Kiwanis Club member and Escalon High School Key Club advisor, the community has been inspired by the youngster. Last year, an impromptu awareness walk drew about 100 people and, this year’s formal event saw roughly double that amount turn out.
This was the first official walk that Heflin helped organize and they plan to keep on doing it in the years to come. Approximately 200 people participated in the 5k walk to show support for Keegan and to help bring awareness of the disorder to the community. There were about 40 students from the EHS Key Club that assisted with the event as well as some local business supporters.
Throughout the walk there were 11 stations set up that were sponsored by businesses or individuals and offered food, water, squirt guns and other surprises.
“It is like an adventure at every table,” added Heflin. “There are pamphlets; please read your pamphlets there are stories written by kids with Tourette’s.”
Oak Valley Community Bank was a sponsor for the event as well giving out fans and bags so that people could fill them with items at the stations throughout the walk.
“They sponsored up to 250 and we were hoping for more and I think we got it,” said Heflin. “We had fun things for the kids and we have tons of sponsors that did that.
“I don’t think a lot of people realize how much Oak Valley does for the community but they are involved with Kiwanis and do a lot.”
The event started at 10 a.m. at Main Street Park where you could see a sea of teal balloons and numerous people ready to get the walk started. Teal is the designated awareness color for Tourette’s.
Young Keegan himself greeted the participants, thanked the Kiwanis Club and the people for their support for the walk for Tourette’s.
“I wouldn’t want to change how God created me and neither would you,” expressed Keegan. “Awareness creates compassion and we all could use more of that.”
Walkers could do the entire route or just a portion, though all were invited to return to the Main Street Park for continuing festivities, which wrapped up around noon.
The walk was to spread awareness of Tourette’s, which is a neurological disease that can affect kids of all ages. Heflin explained that the disorder presents itself at an early age when kids are in school and it starts with a tick of some kind like snorting or eyes blinking uncontrollably.
“We don’t know why but most kids if they do speak it is usually profanities,” said Heflin. “These are normal kids, they are very smart kids, it’s not a mental onset type of thing so if we get all these kids aware, then maybe they can just have normal lives.
“And that’s what we are doing the walk for. To get all these kids to know so that they are not isolated and we can wipe out that second disease of social isolation. That is the cool part.”
Next year they plan to host another walk sometime between May 15 and June 15, which is National Tourette Awareness Month, however it may be in a different location.
For more information on how you can participate or donate contact Heflin at 209-606-3871 or visit Tourette Association of America at www.tsa-usa.org.