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WMU staffer helps organize events to raise money for Huntington's

by Mark Schwerin

July 19, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of WMU social worker Amy Mack.
Amy Mack reaches the Atlantic Ocean at the end of her 2008 transcontinental ride.
KALAMAZOO--A Western Michigan University social worker is promoting an upcoming car race as well as her Maine-to-Florida bike ride to raise money to fight Huntington's disease.

Amy Mack, a master's level social worker in the WMU Children's Trauma Assessment Center, is one of the organizers of "Race for a Cure," an enduro car race revving up at 6 p.m. Sunday, July 31, at Kalamazoo Speedway, 7656 Ravine Road. She also will ride a bike in September and October from Portland, Maine, to Daytona Beach, Fla. Mack, who has a family member with Huntington's disease, says the fundraisers, particularly the bike ride, are events that are near to her heart.

"I'm doing this because it connects all of these big events in my life through something I'm competent at," says Mack, who in 2008 rode a bike from California to Boston only a few years after suffering a major accident. "It's a way for me to make a difference. Huntington's disease is so tragic. The devastation to families in incredible. And this helps me keep hope and inspiration that I can do something."

Huntington's disease is degenerative, genetic, neurological disorder for which there is no known cure. It slowly diminishes the person's ability to walk, talk and reason and the sufferer eventually becomes totally dependent on others. In short, it affects every aspect of a person's life.

The July 31 race serves as the kickoff for Mack's "Ride for the Cure," a 21-day bicycle marathon traveling more than 1,600 miles. The ride starts Sept. 21 and ends in mid-October.

Mack herself has faced and overcome terrible medical hurdles. An avid cyclist, she and another woman were riding to a soccer game in 2005 to watch their sons play when they were struck by a motorist on MN Avenue in the Richland area. Both women were hurt, but Mack, who was in the rear, suffered serious injuries, including seven broken bones in her leg, back and ribcage. Hospitalized for two months, she began a long road to recovery.

Despite her back being permanently damaged, Mack recovered and was able to fulfill a longtime goal of riding a bike coast to coast before age 50. In 2008, she achieved that goal, signing on with a group of 28 people making the cross-country ride. She will ride with the same group on the upcoming ride from Maine to Florida.

Mack hopes to raise $25,000 or more through both events to combat Huntington's disease. Friends, family and supporters will be on hand July 31 to watch and cheer on driver Wayne Deering, a local music promoter and businessman. Tickets, costing $25, include admission to the speedway and a party deck where food and beverages will be served.

Then it's up to Mack herself to make the trek from Maine to Florida on her own power.

"Part of this is just creating an awareness about this disease," she says. "A lot of people don't know anything about it."

Mack says her co-workers in the WMU Children's Trauma Assessment Center have been a big help.

"They have been so incredibly supportive," she says. "This is an issue that is really close to my heart."

To purchase a race ticket, visit To support Mack's ride to Florida, go to

For more information, contact Deb Boyd at (269) 629-5452 or