If you ask young people what they wish for, many of them are pre-occupied with the material wonders of childhood. But for three girls in the Medford area, their simple request is far from child’s play.
They’re inviting everyone who reads this to stand with them on September 20th in support of a large community of children in New Jersey living with a misunderstood neurological disorder.
They are the inspiration behind the first South Jersey walk to benefit the Tourette Syndrome community. NJ Walks for TS at Medford Lakes is an off-shoot of popular NJ Walks events in North and Central Jersey by the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome (NJCTS).
Tourette Syndrome is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. TS is frequently accompanied by ADHD, OCD, mental health and learning disabilities. NJ Walks for TS was founded for kids, by kids and all proceeds from the event will support the Education Outreach Programs of NJCTS which deliver in-service trainings to hospitals and schools across the state, youth leadership training and scholarships.
Jen Heicklen of Medford Lakes and Maureen Faber of Medford are the moms behind the event and their daughters are following in their footsteps in bringing the public’s attention to TS.
“Ever since my little sister was diagnosed, too, I wanted to help spread awareness,” said 11-year-old Anna Heicklen. “I thought the walk would be a great way to do this.”
Ava Heicklen, 10, said she’s part of the movement because Anna “wanted us to work together to help teach our friends and school about Tourette.”
Through NJ Walks for TS at Medford Lakes, they hope to raise support and awareness of TS, which is an often misunderstood condition.
When asked what she’d like the public to understand about TS, Anna replied, “It isn’t easy, it interferes with your daily life. I just want people to be understanding.”
Hayley Faber, who is now a college freshman, adds “the more people understand about TS, the more accepting they are which makes it easier for kids with to explain things to our friends.”
Her hope is that the event will educate the community so that “it makes it easier and more comfortable for kids who have TS to live with this disorder.”
Ava, speaking on behalf of the 1 in 100 school aged kids with TS said, “We are not different from you. Our brains are just wired differently.”
All three girls invite kids and their families to gather on September 20th to learn more about TS and to stand up for the 20,000 New Jersey kids with TS and its associated disorders.
“We want everyone to support us so my sister and I can continue to spread awareness in the schools,” said Anna. “It would mean the world to us to have a ton of people to show up and support us.”
Ava concluded, “Because it would show that people support us like we support them.”
Registration begins at 8 a.m. at Vaughan Hall on Tabernacle Road, pre-registration is suggested at njcts.org/walk. All registrants will receive a free, one-month family membership to Medford Fitness.