Last year, Austin Hartman organized a 5K race in honor of his friend Tim Rakovan, who suffers from Huntington's disease and lost his father to the same disorder.
Numerous people came out to participate in the Big Dog 5K and helped raise $5,000.
"It was a really good idea for our friend Timmy,” said Noah Hartman, 17, Austin's younger brother. “We just want to continue it.”
Noah and his friend Shaye Rogers are hoping to raise even more money and awareness.
As part of their senior project, the two organized the second annual Big Dog 5K Walk and Run, which takes place Saturday, April 26 at Old Economy Park. The event is in honor of their friend Tim and others affected by Huntington’s Disease.
“I’m really excited,” said Shaye, 17, of Economy. “It was fun last year to be here and help out with Austin’s project, and it was really exciting to see how excited Tim got. It’s just a good experience.”
Elaine Rakovan said her son Tim, now 20, was diagnosed in 2012 with Huntington's disease, an inherited disorder that progressively destroys neurons in the brain and gradually deprives patients of their ability to walk, speak, swallow, breath, and think clearly.
“Emotionally he’s doing fantastic," she said. "Physically, you can’t change it, so it’s just one day at a time.”
In sixth grade, Tim had a pair of “Big Dog” boxers, which earned him the name. His tall build soon caught up and the nickname stuck.
The diagnosis, however, came about a year after high school graduation. As a parent, Elaine said she always noticed little things but didn’t want to admit it. Back in junior high, Tim was tall and lanky, physical features she chalked up to growing.
“You just think that they’re awkward. He had balance issues back then, but he still managed to play soccer,” she said.
Tim's father died two years ago from the disease that, to date, has no cure. The inaugural race was held last year on the anniversary of his death, something Elaine described as "bittersweet."
Tim walked the route halfway through last year and Elaine, who is the borough secretary in Baden, walked as well. She plans to participate again on Saturday and said she has been touched by the outpouring of support.
“To see the support that comes out--a lot of people don’t know about Huntington’s," she said.
She said a woman who has Huntington’s drove in from Ohio last year and walked the entire route. The race winds through the park, taking runners and walkers past the tennis courts, through the woods and loops back to the finish.
Michael Hartman, Noah’s brother, graduated with Tim and said it's awesome the race continuing.
“Timmy has been one of my really good friends for a very long time. It’s really good to see them (Noah and Shaye) helping out,” he said.
Tim said having a race in his honor makes him feel loved. Funds raised will be donated to the Huntington Disease Society of America, Western PA Chapter.
2nd Annual Big Dog 5K
Registration on Saturday begins at 9 a.m. followed by the run at 10 a.m. and the walk at 11 a.m.
The race is $15 per person, which includes admission and a T-shirt. Same day registrations will be taken the day of the race, but limited shirts will be available. Sponsors have helped cover the cost of T-shirts, raffles and prizes.
Pre-registration forms and admission fees can be turned in at the Baden Borough Building. Call 724-869-3354 or email firstname.lastname@example.org with questions. Make checks payable to “HDSA.”
Sign up for our weekly newsletter. Like Ambridge Connection on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.