Second annual Hoop-A-Thon sees increased participation

BY JON FRANK | MARCH 28, 2011 7:20 AM

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Joe Larsen’s arm sprang forward as he shot a composite leather basketball from the free-throw line of the Iowa City West High gymnasium on Sunday.

Dressed in a black T-shirt and jeans, the 25-year-old’s goal was to make as many free throws as possible in five minutes. After each shot he took, a girl standing next to him handed him another ball.

But Larsen’s baskets didn’t rack up points on a scoreboard. Instead, they added dollars to Huntington’s disease research.

“It’s encouraging to see this many people out,” the Le Mars native said.
The Hoop-a-Thon, in its second year, had 45 participants in the free-throw shooting contest, an increase over last year’s roughly 37-person turnout, which raised $5,500.

Though organizers said total fundraising amounts weren’t known Sunday, they anticipate a definite increase over last year’s total.

The Huntington’s Disease Society of America put on the event to raise money to combat the genetic disorder, which affects the brain. According to the society’s website, the degenerative disorder affects about one in 10,000 Americans.

All fundraising will support further research as well as support families affected by the condition.

“[The turnout] seems to be above last year,” said Sean Thompson, the public-relations coordinator for the University of Iowa Huntington’s Disease Society of America Center of Excellence. “The number of shooters so far has been higher.”

This year, organizers were able to add a second hoop because of increased participation.

The 29-year-old said the increase in community attendance is largely due to the marketing efforts of a group of University of Iowa student interns, who helped promote the event.

In its inaugural year, members of the Huntington’s Disease Society of America relied heavily on word-of-mouth to spread awareness for the Hoop-a-Thon and did not have a website.

“We’ve had a lot of people come through,” said UI senior Chelsea Harrison, an intern at the UI Center of Excellence. “We’ve had a lot of volunteers, and we’ve also had a lot of families.”

The 22-year-old worked with other members of the society’s Center of Excellence to encourage community members to participate in the Hoop-a-Thon. As a public-relations intern, she and other team members created and distributed fliers, put ads on TV and radio programs, and hosted a community night on March 23.

“We’ve worked really closely with the Iowa City community and the local businesses,” she said.

Though there is currently no known cure for the genetic disorder, strides have been made since its discovery in 1872, and there is now an FDA-approved treatment.

North Liberty resident Chrissy Harapat has several family members who suffer from Huntington’s disease. Harapat, who attended the event to support the free-throw shooters, said the increased participation was a positive sign.

“[Huntington’s disease] is not something that a lot of people know about,” she said. “And so when there’s not something that a lot of people know about, it’s harder to get research.”

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