Walk Raises $58,000 to Fight Lupus

By Chaneé Patterson

RICHMOND, Va. – Pouring rain didn’t discourage hundreds of walkers who came out recently to Richmond International Raceway to raise money and awareness for lupus patients.

Lupus is an immune-system disease that attacks the skin, joints and major organs. An estimated 1.5 million Americans, including 40,000 Virginians, have a form of lupus.

The Richmond Walk for Lupus Now ’09 did more than educate people about the disease. It also raised more than $58,375 in donations – surpassing the goal of $50,000. The event, one of 50 walks sponsored by the Lupus Foundation of America, was held Oct. 31.

The top fundraiser at the Richmond walk was Tamara Williams, who collected almost $3,150.

At about 10:30 a.m., lupus patients began the four-lap walk around the racetrack as hundreds of others tagged along. People were given nutrition bars and bottles of water to help stay energized.

“I want to thank you guys so much for coming out today to support this great cause,” said Edwin Thomas, who served as emcee for the walk.

“We have a lot of people to thank for putting this event together. Is everyone enjoying the music and prepared to begin the walk?”

Hundreds of people walked four laps as others rested under the tents protecting them from the rain.

“I felt really good after the walk,” said Akiah Brown, one of the participants.

“I did this for a good cause to help raise awareness for those affected with lupus. Seeing so many people here for the same cause is touching because I never knew that people actually cared. Seeing young children to elderly adults to handicaps walking and raising money to help awareness lupus made my day.”

The rain didn’t dampen the spirits of the walker or the volunteers. Several organizations from Virginia Commonwealth University helped with the event, including the Alpha Kappa Alpha and Delta Sigma Theta sororities.

New-Found Treatment

The day after the lupus awareness walk at Richmond International Raceway, participants received an e-mail with groundbreaking news – about a new drug for treating lupus.

The drug is called BENLYSTA. If endorsed by the U.S. Federal Drug Administration, it would be the first drug ever developed and approved specifically for the treatment of lupus.

Human Genome Sciences and GlaxoSmithKline are conducting clinical trials with BENLYSTA and have found that it reduces disease activity.

“Individuals with lupus and their families have waited more than 50 years to hear that it is possible to develop therapies that control the disease,” said Sandra Raymond, president of the Lupus Foundation of America.

“We believe that this is a significant first step in developing the full arsenal of therapies and personalized treatment lupus requires.”

Frequently Asked Questions about Lupus

Q: What is lupus?

A: Lupus is a rare form of tuberculosis of the skin, characterized by brownish tubercles that often heal slowly and leave scars. If you have lupus, something goes wrong with your immune system and it attacks healthy cells and tissues. This can damage joints, skin, kidneys, heart, lungs, blood vessels and brain.

Q: Who gets lupus?

A: Anyone can get lupus. It is more common in African-Americans than in whites.

Q: What are some symptoms of lupus?

A: Symptoms include muscle pains, swollen glands, sensitivity to the sun and hair loss.

Source: National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases