“I think your father has Huntington’s Disease (HD).”
Katie Weikum, Gift Card Coordinator for Buffalo Wild Wings, remembers her mother sharing that news with their family in 2008 and the traumatizing research that followed.
“I was 14 years old and had only heard about HD because my grandmother passed away from it. I read that its symptoms were like mixing ALS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s into one,” Katie explained.
Since learning that the gene can only be inherited, Katie has dealt with the reality that she has a 50/50 chance of also having HD.
With no cure for the disease to date, Katie has instead turned her attention to supporting affected families and raising funds for research as the President of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America – Minnesota Chapter. Through the HDSA, Katie coordinates fundraising events, runs social media and works with businesses on sponsorship opportunities in an effort to raise money and awareness.
“I’m trying my best to support finding a cure. It’s a way of coping for me, because I see how horrible this disease is, and how it’s totally changed my family.” Katie Weikum, Gift Card Coordinator, Buffalo Wild Wings
HD research has advanced significantly in the last 20 years. That’s why she is hopeful her work with the HDSA will lead to a cure sooner rather than later.
“There’s so much momentum behind research right now. I know, at some point, there’s going to be a breakthrough in finding a long-term treatment for this disease,” Katie said.
For now, she relies on her support system, which includes her family, her boyfriend and colleagues from Buffalo Wild Wings at the Minneapolis Support Center.
“I’m so grateful for all of the support I have in my life. My boyfriend is someone who not only is there to listen, but also helps my family whenever they need it,” Katie said. “And my colleagues are just unbelievable, whether they’re supporting me at fundraising events or just being flexible with my work schedule so that I can be there for my father whenever he needs me.”
“The way my colleagues consistently go out of their way to help really represents how we come together as a team and encourage each other at Buffalo Wild Wings.”
And just as others have been there to support her, she tries to pass that along by volunteering with two national youth organizations: the Huntingon’s Disease Youth Organization and the National Youth Alliance.
“It’s so important to have a support system and just be able to talk with someone. I try to provide that encouragement for others as well,” Katie said.
To learn more about how you can help Katie fight back against HD, visit the Huntington’s Disease Society of America.