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Student fights to help cure scleroderma

Date: 4/20/2010

April 21, 2010.

By Katelyn Gendron

Reminder Assistant Editor

WESTFIELD -- Shannon Broderick, a senior at Westfield High School, has seen the affects of scleroderma firsthand. She's watched her aunt battle with this devastating autoimmune disease every day.

Broderick, with the help of her family, friends and members of the New England Chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation, are putting together a new walk to honor her aunt and those battling the disease. The inaugural Westfield Walk-A-Thon to Cure Scleroderma will take place at Stanley Park on May 22.

"My aunt and I have always been extremely close," Broderick explained of her motivation. "For most of her life that I have spent with her, she has had this disease. Our family would always speak about the fact that scleroderma was not the most recognized disease out there. Knowing this, I thought that it was important to increase awareness in my community, which is her hometown.

"She has been through so many struggles in her life, and fights to stay alive every day," she continued. "So while planning this walk whenever I get a little stressed out, I always think about everything she has done for me and how happy this will make her."

There are approximately 300,000 people diagnosed with scleroderma in the United States. There is currently no cure for the disease, which causes the body's immune system to attack its own tissues and in turn can cause complications to the heart, lungs, kidneys, joints and digestive track.

The Scleroderma Foundation is a non-profit organization, which labors to help find a cure and raise awareness of the disease.

Tom Curran, executive director of the New England Chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation, noted walks are the organization's primary fundraisers, each raising between $10,000 and $45,000. He explained there's no minimum pledge or registration fee for any walk because these events are meant to increase awareness above all.

Broderick agreed, adding, "Although it is important to raise money for the walk, my main goal is to have as many people participate as possible to increase awareness. I have set a personal goal of several thousand dollars to raise, and am working very hard towards it.

"Scleroderma is not a well-known disease," she continued. "I feel like I am providing a forum for people who may have the disease to know that they are being supported."

Registration for the 5K will begin at 10 a.m. and the walk will begin at noon.

For more information or to make a pledge, visit or call the New England Chapter of the Scleroderma Foundation at (888) 525-0658.