It’s obvious that Brennan Skirzenski has a bright future ahead. When he’s not running or fencing, the West Morris Mendham Regional High School sophomore is talking to friends and neighbors throughout his home town to support the North Jersey leg of NJ Walks for TS.
It’s a cause that’s personal for Brennan and 20,000 other children and teens in New Jersey living with Tourette Syndrome (TS). TS is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or sounds known as tics. It is frequently accompanied by ADHD, obsessive-compulsive disorder, learning disabilities, or mental health challenges.
All proceeds from NJ Walks for TS at Bergen, a 5K walk and family fun run, will benefit the education outreach programs of the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome & Associated Disorders (NJCTS) which include in-service presentations for teachers, anti-bullying school assemblies, hospital grand rounds for healthcare providers and leadership training for teens and young adults.
“While children with TS may suffer, we believe their experiences make them unique and dynamic leaders,” said NJCTS Executive Director Faith W. Rice. “One of the most pressing issues in the life of a person with Tourette Syndrome is to break the stigma surrounding this disorder.”
As a youth co-chair, Brennan believes it’s important for members of the public who do not have a personal connection to TS to attend the event: “When they come to NJ Walks for TS and get more information that will break the stigma” and demystify the disorder.
NJ Walks for TS originated in 2010 when a Mendham teenager wanted to “do something big” in support of a family member with TS. Since then, the 5K has evolved to include events in Central and South Jersey. Brennan and his family have been part of NJ Walks for TS for years and are looking forward to joining hundreds of other kids and families on November 12th.
In the meantime, Brennan is recruiting a team of walkers and runners to bring to the event. His team name, “TS is BS [sic]” offers a glimpse into the prerogative of a young man who is poised to succeed in life and his career of choice (“maybe finance or computer programming”) far beyond the challenges that come with a TS diagnosis.
To register or donate online, visit www.njcts.org. Check-in begins at 8 a.m. at the Overpeck Park Amphitheater, 199 Challenger Road, Ridgefield Park, NJ 07660. Sponsorships are available by calling NJCTS at 908-575-7350.