NJ Walks for TS Returns to South Jersey with Fun for Runners and Walkers

NJ Walks for Tourette Syndrome returns to Burlington County on Sunday, September 18th. This 5K walk/family fun run will benefit the education outreach programs of the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome.

The Heicklens, Anna, 11, Jen, and Ava, 10, invite the community to join their efforts to stamp out the stigma associated with TS on Sept 18. (Photo by Chris LaChall/Courier-Post)

The event begins with check-in at 7 a.m. at PJ Whelihan’s, 61 Stokes Road, Medford Lakes. Award-winning vocalist Dawson Coyle of Vineland will be back by popular demand, and new this year, will be a paddleboard live auction sponsored by Jersey Pools and Spas. A new route will allow walkers and runners a more scenic view of the area’s lakes and cabins.

All proceeds from NJ Walks for TS at Medford Lakes will benefit the education outreach programs of the NJ Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders, Inc. (NJCTS). Tourette Syndrome (TS) is a neurological disorder recognized by involuntary movements or vocalizations called tics. As many as 1 in 100 children show symptoms of TS which is often accompanied by other neurological, mental health, and learning disabilities. Through funds raised by NJ Walks for TS events statewide, NJCTS delivers school in-service trainings for teachers, anti-bullying presentations for students, and hospital grand rounds for doctors.

The Heicklen family of Medford Lakes initiated the South Jersey NJ Walks for TS event after, “NJCTS helped us through the pain and anguish [of facing the TS diagnoses of daughters Anna, 11, and Ava, 10],” said mother Jen.

What makes NJ Walks for TS different from other 5Ks is that it is entirely youth driven—founded for kids, by kids, to benefit kids. So when Anna and Ava took the podium last year, they knew their efforts would help other children living with the stigma or isolation that comes with TS. Their hard work was life-changing. According to Jen, speaking to the crowd of more than 300 friends, family members, and neighbors, “the amount of confidence and pride this provided was priceless…at that moment they learned that it was okay that they have TS because our community would help them through every step.”

“The awareness and self-empowerment that comes to the kids putting this event together is remarkable,” said NJCTS Executive Director Faith W. Rice. “We are proud of the children and teens who make it their mission to help peers with TS and those younger who will be diagnosed in the future. I invite the community to join us and share the inspiration.”

Anna and Ava are joined by a group of other dedicated youth advocates in making September 18th a day they’ll never forget with an impact to reach hospitals and classrooms across the region. Registration is available for individuals, teams, and donors at www.njcts.org. For more information, call 908-575-7350.