Significant Strides: Fall Walk for Bleeding Disorders

Christina Kelso

Photo by Tina Kelso

Saturday morning, the lawn of the J. Henry Gooding building met the emerging sunlight with an image of vivid life. The typically quiet grounds buzzed with the chattering sounds of people happily at work, setting up a scene of hopeful enthusiasm. Participants from The Hemophilia Foundation of Greater Florida (HFGF) stretched, laughed, and talked, preparing themselves for the day’s festivities.

This moment represented the Fall Walk for Bleeding Disorders. A third annual event for Jacksonville University, individual walkers along with teams set out to raise money and build a sense of community. Departing from the lawn of the Gooding building and wrapping around campus, along the bank of the St. Johns River an array of walkers pushed forward, smiling faces in determined pursuit of a common goal.

“I like to coming out to do things for other people and learning about things that are not widely talked about,” said Grace Mims, a second year participant representing the Jacksonville University Health and Wellness Team.  “My favorite part is seeing the families.”
Bleeding disorders, the most common being Von Willebrand Disease and hemophilia, are conditions in which there is a dysfunction in the body’s clotting system that causes prolonged bleeding episodes. With the funding they earn, 93 cents out of every dollar, is used to directly fund HFGF programs that strive to improve the quality of life for individuals who suffer from bleeding disorders as well as their families. The HFGF provides emergency financial assistance to families in times of need, reaches thousands of people with educational programs throughout the year and promotes advocacy and research.

The well-earned funds provide heartedly for the emotional wellbeing of families affected by bleeding disorders.  The risk of physical activity that coincides with blood disorders means children affected by them often cannot attend camps. The HFGF routinely sets up a medically-safe camp environment, called Camp Spirit, held at Camp Boggy Creek in Central Florida.  This allows kids to safely have fun with classic camp activities such as horseback riding and archery while also meeting and bonding with others who face similar issues.

“It’s a chance for families with similar experiences to get together and socialize,” said Shirley Sebastian, a mover and shaker of the organization for 15 years. An avid participant, Sebastian described the environment of the Fall Walk as “open and friendly”.

This idea was reflected in the animated and dedicated leader of the largest walking team, Team Charlie, Cindy VonDolteren. Inspired by her four-year-old son Charlie, the team’s namesake who is diagnosed with severe hemophilia A, she has been involved for three years with JU’s walk.

“ It’s great to meet other families who have the same problems that we do and amazing to see the community come out to support us,” said VonDolteren “It’s like we are not in this alone, we have people who love and support us.”
Beginning in February, a planning committee met once every six weeks at Nemours Children’s Hospital, a recognized hemophilia treatment center, to coordinate music, food and sponsorship of the event.  The fruits of the committee’s labor could be seen in the energized success of the event.

Happenings including an appearance by Patches, the Gator Bowl mascot, a musical physical therapy warm up, face painting, raffle tickets and a line of educational booths represented months of planning.

“Having the event at JU makes it easier for us and every year we get bigger and better.” said Missy Zippel, a Registered Nurse for Nemours and third year participant in the event. “It helps not only to educate people who have bleeding disorders but also as an outreach to the community.”