At 19 years old, think about what you were doing. I was detailing cars, had dropped out of college, smoked a pack of cigarettes a day, and spent nearly every weekend in the spring and summer racing the first car I ever owned. I carried that stereotypical invincible teenage bravado, even though I knew deep down that I wasn’t invincible. My aunt's diagnosis of Huntington's disease had been a sobering reality. I had done a comprehensive paper on HD for my high school biology final, which gave me a good understanding of what she would face in the coming years.

During the 2007 fall racing season with the North Hills Sports Car Club, the club organized a food drive that did quite well. It sparked an idea. I had this family connection to Huntington's disease and thought I could leverage that to run a small fundraiser, if only I could get my case heard.

On December 19th, 2007, a cold winter night, I pitched my idea to the club members. To my surprise, they quickly embraced it. I went home that night blissfully ignorant of the challenges ahead. I had no clue what I was doing and couldn’t find many resources. Soon after, I reached out to the HDSA for ideas and materials to present at my event. They were incredibly supportive and provided everything they could. Thank you, Mynelly.

This led me to some real heroes: the Western Pennsylvania Chapter. These folks perfectly embodied the Pittsburgh spirit—rough and tumble, hardworking, highly motivated, devil-may-care types who supported us in every way possible. We worked tirelessly, building relationships with donors and gathering items for auction baskets. Our efforts paid off, raising $3,500 that first year.

From there, the FastTrack family grew and evolved in ways we never imagined. We nearly doubled our donations the next year. Huntington's my aunt a month before our third event and that shook us all to a point where we knew we could not fail going forward. By the fourth year, we hit our first five-digit donation. Year five wasn’t as successful, prompting us to ask attendees what they wanted from the event. How could we encourage more donations by making them feel it was their idea? That strategy worked, leading to our highest donation yet the following year.

By this time, I was getting more involved with the HDSA community. The National Youth Alliance (NYA) and its members became my family. We fought to ensure young people affected by HD had a voice and a platform. My new friends were so interested in my small event that they started showing up, further changing the event dynamics. Integrating those who also fought the same battle improved the event significantly. These experiences changed the trajectory of my life.

Year after year, we kept breaking records. We surpassed $100K, then $150K, and finally broke the $200K barrier. Celebrating these milestones wasn’t done in isolation. My FastTrack family and I would stand in my driveway, drinking champagne and toasting to another record-breaking year. We continued this tradition last year when we raised over $25,000.

As we stand on the precipice of the 17th annual FastTrackPGH, my goals remain the same: raise awareness for this terrible disease, have fun with my friends and family, raise money for local research, and ensure that young people know I've got their backs. And, of course, to break through ceilings that the 19-year-old me could never have imagined.

Fight with your friends, for your friends.

To learn more about #HuntingtonsDisease & the #HDSAFamily please utilize the resources at https://hdsa.org/