Annual 4K walk to raise awareness, money for lesser-known autoimmune disease

Scleroderma involves the hardening and tightening of the skin and connective tissues that support the body

BOARDMAN, Ohio (WYTV) – A yearly tradition will take place once again on the morning of June 3 at Boardman Park.

The 14th annual 4K Fun Walk for Scleroderma will raise awareness for the disease, also known as crest syndrome.

“Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that affects 80 percent women. Unfortunately, your body overproduces collagen — and that’s a scarring agent — and it doesn’t know how to turn itself off. That makes all your organs taunt, tight, mobility. Heart, lungs, kidney, it can affect every organ in your body,” said Mariann Boyanowski, one of the event’s organizers.

Mariann Boyanowski has had the disease for 16 years. She says she is fortunate because she got an early diagnosis, which is key.

“If we can spread the awareness and get this diagnosis down earlier, you can really pay attention to all the symptoms and treat each symptom as they come your way,” Boyanowski explained.

In Ohio, about 12,000 have scleroderma, more than the amount of people who have multiple sclerosis, another autoimmune disease, according to Boyanowski.

“Scleroderma is still kind of an orphan issue that people have really not heard of,” she said.

About 400 walkers will be expected to participate in the Fun Walk, which will also have clowns, a 50/50 raffle, a Chinese auction and subs from Subway. The event is also dog-friendly.

“Youngstown really rallies around us, it’s a grassroots effort … It’s a good time. It’s kind of a reunion,” she said.

Registration is $20 and the money goes toward the Scleroderma Foundation.

“We really have a three fold mission: education, research and support. We’re fortunate enough that on [Sept. 11] we’re going to have our first education day here in Youngstown, and we’re going to host the doctors from the University of Pittsburgh. So, 97 percent of the money comes right back to the state of Ohio,” Boyanowski said.

Registration for the walk begins at 8:30 a.m. The walk will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon. Registration can be found at www.boardmanwalk.info.

Participants who raise $25 or more for the walk will receive a free T-shirt.