August 13, 2013 at 1:00 PM
LIVINGSTON, NJ – Approximately 250 people gathered at the Livingston Oval on Sunday Aug. 11, to participate in a walk to raise awareness and money on behalf of those with ITP (idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura), an autoimmune blood disorder.
Meredith Prescott, recent college graduate and event organizer, stated that, “I was diagnosed with ITP in November, and I wanted to spread awareness to find a cure and research.” Her two best friends, Lauren Appel and Alicia D’souza helped her plan the event.
According to Prescott, her event raised more money than any other walk for ITP in the country. As of Aug. 14, Prescott said that over $40,000 was raised and that “the checks are still piling in.”
“ITP is an autoimmune blood disorder where the platelets are the prime target” she said.
Prescott added that, “It (ITP) accompanies weekly blood tests to monitor the platelet count, because of the platelet count is too low, you have to maximize it with treatment.”
According to Prescott, there are few available treatments for ITP, including chemotherapy, steroids, splenectomy, and new orphan drugs.
Fatigue, bleeding, red spots, and bruising are some symptoms of ITP, according to Prescott.
“I’m from Livingston, so I knew I wanted to do it in Livingston, where it would bring the most attention in terms of friends and family – and I knew it would bring the biggest crowd to raise the largest amount of money and awareness,” said Prescott.
She also said that Sunday’s event in Livingston was the largest in the tri-state area.
“Everyone has been helpful – family, friends, the community.”
Prescott also stated that she wanted to raise awareness for ITP because people with the disease continuously have to explain to people what it is since it’s not common.
“It (ITP) doesn’t define who you are, your more than just a blood disorder, you don’t have to talk about it every meal, but you can talk about it without having it define your life” she said.
Nancy Potthast, Marketing Director for the Platelet Disorder Support Association (PDSA), a non-profit organization which serves as a resource for those with ITP, stated that “We (PDSA) receive no federal funding, so events like this (walkathon), help promote our programs and benefit research that we do.”
Potthast also stated that PDSA has thirty-six support groups, telephone support groups for parents and families of those with ITP, a physician referral service and booklets on ITP. She also said that the organization takes 5,000 phone calls each year from people diagnosed with ITP.
“On a monthly basis, we have anywhere from thirty to forty thousand visits to our website” she said.
Potthast also said that every 3.9 per 100,000 people in the United States have ITP.
Sunday’s event featured a 5K walk around the Livingston Oval, silent auction, food, festival with slides for kids, and DJ. Without counting the event auction, Prescott and her supporters were able to raise $37,000 in just a little over one month’s time. Proceeds from the event will go to PDSA.
John Gilchrist of Northport, NY, who works with Meredith Prescott’s father, said he came to the event to support her. “I’ve known Meredith for about twelve years, she’s a great person, so I came out to support her. It’s a great cause.”
Marlee Goodman came to the event to help raise money for the cause.
“She (Meredith) is a great person – she’s really dedicated and hard working. She pulled this together by herself and did a great job,” Goodman stated.
Nick Lennek, who has also suffered from ITP, came to the event to run. “It’s awareness for the disorder that no one really knows about.” He added that he was glad ITP was finally getting some attention.
The Livingston Healthy Youth, Healthy Community Initiative also helped Prescott to organize the event.
Martha Ackermann, President of the Livingston HCHY, stated that, “HCHY was formed seven years ago to be a conduit in the community to keep our youth and our adults safe, and that encompasses many different things including programming, activities for children and adults to co-mingle together.”
“We sponsor a lot of different organizations, and partner with a lot of organizations” she added.
Alan Karpas, the treasurer of Livingston HCHY, said that HCHY became involved with Sunday’s event after he heard Meredith Prescott ask the Livingston Township Council for permission to have the event. He informed her about HCHY, and she reached out to them for help in organizing the event.
“We got all the petitions, got the police to close the oval, got public works to put everything out, there’s a lot to do,” he stated.
Livingston Mayor Rudy Fernandez stated that, “When you have a couple of really committed people, and then you get someone like Alan Karpas and Martha Ackerman involved, then you know it’s going to be a success.”
“They raised a lot of money and they raised awareness,” he added.
For more information on ITP, visit www.pdsa.org.