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Walkers Focus On Tourettes Awareness
One of the driving forces behind the awareness walk, Amy McCulloch welcomed the crowd and thanked them for their support as they prepared to start the route on Saturday morning.Times Photos By Marg Jackson

Kicking off the third annual Tourette’s Awareness Walk early Saturday morning, an estimated 300 residents turned out to support the effort and raise both money and awareness.

Escalon’s walk is in honor and support of Keegan McCulloch, a 10-year-old fifth grader at Van Allen Elementary.

“It was a great day, and we guessed we had well over 300. We raised almost $800 that with the help of Escalon Kiwanis, will go back to the kids in our community,” said Keegan’s mom, Amy McCulloch. “We just want to give back to the community that does so much for us.”

Amy said they started the walk “on a wish and a prayer” not knowing how it would work out.

Three years later, it is going strong.

The 9 a.m. start time on Saturday, May 28 at the city’s Main Street Park was designed to help walkers beat the heat that settled in later in the day. Amy, husband Ian, grandmother Pauline McCulloch and Keegan were all there for the walk, welcoming the participants and Kiwanis Club member and Escalon High School Key Club advisor Rick Heflin also provided the ‘marching orders’ to the crowd, detailing the route of the roughly 5k walk. He said along with bringing awareness, they also hope to stop the potential for bullying someone that is a little bit different.

“We decided to do this, because when we received Keegan’s diagnosis, we were totally lost,” Amy admitted of the uncertainty surrounding Tourette’s Syndrome and what it would mean for their family. “We thought the worst, and had no idea where to turn.”

She noted that Internet research and mainstream media often provided the worst case scenarios in regards to the symptoms, which can include a variety of motor and vocal tics, from eye twitching to throat clearing, arm or head jerking to shouting or swearing. The tics are involuntary.

“It took a lot of tears and many sleepless nights of research, to realize we were going to be just fine. Keegan just wants everyone to know he wouldn’t change how God made him, and be nice,” Amy said, with the focus on awareness being key. “He is very confident about his Tourette Syndrome, and has no problem talking about it. That is what makes me the proudest.”

Dad Ian said he has also been overwhelmed by the community.

“Amy grew up here, I didn’t,” he said. “This is only our third year but it’s indescribable how the community has come together for us, everyone is here to help out.”

Money raised at the event is being earmarked for a scholarship, which Amy said the McCulloch family is working with the Kiwanis Club to establish. This year, they also received an autographed Sergio Romo baseball as one of the raffle items and that helped draw interest and entries.

“When we received the ball this year from the Giants, we knew we had a real opportunity to provide a scholarship. Our goal is just to be a little better than the year before,” Amy noted. “We want to make a difference in education for our kids here. Our thank you list for local donors keeps growing, and we are grateful.”

Saturday’s walk featured a number of stops along the route for young participants to gather in some small trinkets in the bag they picked up at registration. Photographer Erin Northcutt of the local Feather and North Photography also was on hand documenting the day and her photos will be featured in a follow up video on the walk.

Through it all, Amy said the McCulloch family is appreciative of all the support and just want people to know that Tourette’s does not have to be a barrier.

“The message we live by and try to share is that we all have something. For some it is on the inside, and some on the outside,” she explained. “Keegan’s is on the outside, so sometimes people have questions ... and it’s okay to ask those questions. We will do this as long as people will walk with us.”